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Salon socialism on ET. A provocation

by Martin Thu May 15th, 2008 at 07:47:35 PM EST

All the time people here who have otherwise a very left rhethoric speak about the rescue of the 'middle class', and how great Europe is.
When I read German blogs and comments, left leaning people may speak sometimes as well of the middle class, but never will say anything is good in Germany. How comes this discrepancy?
My provocative thesis here: ETers are to a big chunk salon socialists.


When euamerican wrote his diary A needed place for "anti-Americanism" today, and I saw the headline, I felt guilty. I thought it was snark at all those people who had like me posted critical comments and recently even a diary about the USA, and how this is just a group dynamical thing or something like that. Not that I believe that anything I wrote was wrong or in bad faith. But it is a bit like beating up an already lying victim.
My experience is that nobody in Europe wants American conditions. If you read ultra neoliberals like Hans-Werner Sinn, and look to his concrete policy proposals, the US democrats are economic a hard right party (and yes, including Barak Obama) even compared to him. They share only the worst economic aspects of other left parties, namely protectionism for middle class Americans, while the poor in other parts of the world don't matter to them at all. Why then is there such a bitter fight to attack influenceless anglo-saxon nonsense writers? Is it because attacking them gives the feeling of being on the left=good side without the necessity of real commitment?

The 2/3 society
The word 'middle class' only makes sense if there is an upper class and a lower class as well. In Germany being left means to be 'officially' on the side of the lower class, not necessarily the middle class. Being for the middle class is 'Neue Mitte'/New Labour, which correctly is not assumed to be really left.
Some here at ET make the assessment, that the big rift of our societies is between the .1% super rich and all others. Or between those who live from capital income (by the way like many retired people) and those living from wage. While this may be true for some aspects of live, this is clearly not the difference between the losers and the winners of our society. The reality is more with Peter Glotz' two third one third society, where two thirds can participate, one third not.
Once again from FTD' Thomas Fricke:
"[...] even in the worst times after WW II, when in 2005 the unemployment was more than 5 million (ca. 12.5%) only 3.6% of academics had no job. People with proper technical training even only 3.2%. [...]
Correspondingly the expert advisory board found, that between 2002 and 2005, right during the years of crisis, about 70% of population had very small or no change in their relative income postition. [...]
For the middle class [the increasing number of low wagers] would only be a problem if those low wagers would be former middle class people. The reality is, that most low wager have barely any qualification and know about the middle class onle peripherally. [...]
If there is a poverty risk in Germany, then for those, for whom this is not any more a risk. Those without proper training had 22% unemployment, a half more than 25 years ago (not lower as for academics) - with an increasing risk of never leave poverty: Only one of eight low wagers made it to the middle class after several years. [...]
This country needs more chances to advance - and less middle class cant"
Are you pouring middle class und lower class together because that means you then feel you are not one of the better of people, depite you might be? Isn't it great and moral if your personal interest are aligned with the poor's interests, even if they are in reality not?

Some countries Gini
Sweden 25
Finland 26.9
Germany 28.3
Austria 29.1
Netherlands 30.9
South Korea 31.6
France 32.7
Switzerland 33.7
Poland 34.5
UK 36
USA 40.8
China 46.9
The other planet
The left table with Gini coefficients from wikipedia (from UN 07/08 development report) shows that we may really experience different problems than the US. The German left always points to Sweden as a superior left governed country. The gini is only 3.3 points higher in Germany, where the left assumes the overwhelming victory of neoliberalism. The difference to the US is 3.8 times as big. If there is a serious quality difference in the Swedish and German unequality, this numbers suggest that the US is from a different planet, e.g. talking to Americans and claiming to be 'left' simply does not mean anything with regard to Europe. That means of course as well, that on ET many people defend the 'European model', while most local lefties see our societies on the brink to feudalism. So my question here is, Are you really left or do you just like to give poor Americans[1] good advice? Recently and currently there was some talk about ET becoming a 'think tank'. There are a lot of ideas around energy [2], but are there really social ideas around? What would make it left apart from disrecpect for personal freedom and maturity, and for constant excuses for dictators suppressing their people? Have the people here real ideas, how to reintegrate those who were failed by their parents and the educational system into the society? Is there an answer to the more and more obvious fact, that only more money will not help those people who don't see another sense in their lives than eating welfare paid fastfood in front of their TVs? Detaching from reality is possible for politicians, who don't want to insult potential voters, but if you want to change the society, this is where really new ideas are needed, because it means to care for those who really can't care for themselves. The sheepish defense of the European status quo of laws is currently done by the worst part of our conservative politicians against the really left guys, no need to copy them for ET. The ignorance of the disabilities of our societies would mean to fail those once more, whose chances were already taken away from them, when they were kids.

[1] I mean here Americans as "The US Americans", not only the real poor, but actually as the US state is so poor, in a sense Americans are poor.
[2]Which is not primarily left, but more a need of reality. Indeed the part of the green parties which are primarily interested in the environment and sustainablility are typically the first offering alliances to the conservatives. Sustainability and environment protection are elitist projects for those who don't have to care for the now.

Poll
Why are there so few policy proposals for social change in Europe on ET
. EU is fine as it is 0%
. It's obvious what would have to be done 33%
. I've no ideas how one could do change, depite I'm unhappy 0%
. First I have to change my country to be more like the EU, then we can see on 66%

Votes: 3
Results | Other Polls
Display:
My experience is that nobody in Europe wants American conditions. If you read ultra neoliberals like Hans-Werner Sinn, and look to his concrete policy proposals, the US democrats are economic a hard right party (and yes, including Barak Obama) even compared to him.

That is contrary to my experience. In point of fact, the Danish PM's son recently returned from a visit to the Great Neighbour to the West and wrote a book that was - according to the reviews - one long cheerleading exercise for the American way of life and the American economic model.

We have hardline neolibs pushing for flat taxes - which in fact means regressive taxes since there are a number of poll taxes that they are not suggesting that we do away with.

We have hardline neolibs who want to privatize power supply, public transit, education and sometimes even drinking water!

Further, I think that various ETers have made a very compelling case that the UK is - in terms of foreign and economic policy - the 51st state of the Union. So no, I think that there is a clear and present danger.

Not that that precludes ET being populated by salon socialists, of course...

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu May 15th, 2008 at 08:20:29 PM EST
Add to this the new entrants to the east, among whom such thoughts and ideologies are not just familiar, but animating as well.

The US may not have a properly flat tax (though the effect is somewhat similar once all layers of taxes are accounted for) but you find this in many nations in the East.

The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill

by r------ on Thu May 15th, 2008 at 09:15:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
People are tempted by "great" examples. America is still a big success example to most, better than anything else. Never mind that the example is sustained by more people working harder for less and less, by desperations of broken dreams, by one more leverage of presumed future earnings. People still aspire for a 20-room mansion in a gated community, for most expensive cars and yachts. Never mind that paradise dreams come true just a handful, that the distance to there is getting unfairly larger, and more suckers get frustrated. It must be still the best of the worlds, and the society, the environment, and the future can be at no risk.

Our best arguments are not that attractive. We have to say these rich times will not last long (why not, you looser pessimist?!), the wealth of the few costs much misery to others (surely not more than with socialisms), and our best projects are forgotten (what, those dying Scandinavian models?!). It is not that easy for average minds to realize that limited resources will most likely turn out irreplaceable, power gap manipulates fairness, or that you can be just happy with a well assured health care and secured work prospects.

by das monde on Fri May 16th, 2008 at 02:56:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
People are tempted by "great" examples. America is still a big success example to most, better than anything else.

"Most" being people who have never actually seen the appalling inequality of the US. And you don't have to go too far to see it: just drive from Palm Springs to Laguna Beach along the California "scenic" route 74 and compare Lake Elsinore, Hemet and Perris with Palm Desert and Orange County.

Then take the Metrolink from Riverside to LA Union Station, walk around downtown, and then ride a bus or walk down Wilshire Boulevard.

I'm sure people can bring up other examples from other states.

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri May 16th, 2008 at 04:59:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But, myth is sometimes stronger than reality.

I am reminded of a train trip with three German girls as co-passengers a few years back. They were totally sold on the then current Germany-is-toast moaning in the media. Even while they had rather good lives, with holidays all around the globe. And two of them have been to the USA, and talked about how much better it is in fawning voices. Of course, they have been to the more affluent suburbs where parents applied for exchange student programs or European au-pairs (one of them in Texas I remember), and that's the only part of teir memories they based their overall judgement upon.

Meanwhile, they thought Americans are boorish. So two opposed stereotypes can happily go hand-in-hand.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sun May 18th, 2008 at 12:21:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... the current system is build on burning through non-replaceable fossilized fuels, and your children and grand children will never be able to aspire to the current European quality of life unless Europe shifts to an ecologically sustainable economy embedded with an ecologically sustainable society.

Now, there is much in building an ecologically sustainable society that offers opportunities to re-integrate those left behind by mass media society into actual communities within that society ... and substantial opportunity in building an ecologically sustainable economy to build in a guarantee that everyone has a right to participate in the material provisioning of society.

Indeed, a right to participate through work can join a right to participate in decision making and a right to participate in the fruits of social activity as a foundation that those presently left behind could find very appealing.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Fri May 16th, 2008 at 10:14:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Interesting.
My Danish friend Henrik finds the current government to be laughably out of touch with the current trend of Danish opinion. It's a point that we discuss often, as it matters to us both.
I have only his perception FWIW.

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.
by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Fri May 16th, 2008 at 12:30:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes and no. They're kinda like McCain on the environment. They are paying lip service to environmentalism. They are doing a lot of greenwashing.

Of course this is laughable if you actually take the time to look at the facts - or even if you have a memory that stretches farther back than about two years. And if the public ever had a good, hard look at their environmental policies, I think that Henrik is right - they would find themselves alienating rather a big chunk of the voters.

But they are very, very good at greenwashing and camouflage. And nobody ever lost an election by underestimating the half-life of public memory.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Fri May 16th, 2008 at 05:04:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Salon socialists?

No. Mostly social-democrats, I would say.

They like their middle class comfort and rightfully so. They and their parents built it and they earned it. They hate to see the ultra-wealthy fews manipulate and corrupt the democratic institutions to their narrow, predatory benefit.

You'll also find the (overwhelmingly correct) notion that the acquisition of enormous wealth in vast disparity from the median by an individual is a mark of dumb luck or of thievery, not a proof of genius that supposes an out-sized reward. It doesn't mean you have to subscribe to strict egalitarianism à la "socialisme parfait".

But of course, social-democracy is a shrill, hard-left proposition nowadays.

by Francois in Paris on Thu May 15th, 2008 at 08:41:08 PM EST
Salon socialists?
No. Mostly social-democrats, I would say.

Six of one, half dozen of the other...

The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill

by r------ on Thu May 15th, 2008 at 09:13:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
As an Institutionalist, I am neither a Socialist nor a Social Democrat.

I am a passionate centrist--which puts me FAR to the left of either political party in USA.

"Remember the I35W bridge--who needs terrorists when there are Republicans"

by techno (reply@elegant-technology.com) on Fri May 16th, 2008 at 06:17:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Techno,

I missed an episode or a whole series there. Can you enlighten me?

Institutionalist as in this ?

by Francois in Paris on Fri May 16th, 2008 at 11:51:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You have a pretty decent definition there.

It is my contention that it is impossible to solve problems until they have been accurately defined.  And sometime in my mid-30s, I decided that the Institutionalists had the best toolbox for defining problems.  It took that long because I had to burn through my religious upbringing and the pseudo-theologies like Marxism.

It should be noted that while Institutional Analysis is powerful and accurate, it is insanely difficult to do well.

"Remember the I35W bridge--who needs terrorists when there are Republicans"

by techno (reply@elegant-technology.com) on Sat May 17th, 2008 at 01:20:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This has been somewhat of a touchy subject on occasion hereabouts, it's been my experience; I'd use the term bourgeois socialism myself, but salon socialism certainly can work, though I know for a fact this is not, in reality, a fitting moniker for most regulars here.

For my part, I think a gini of 25 is pretty good, but we can do better, and there are many ways of doing this, redistribution from wealth to the poor being the most efficient, via taxation, full employment policies an robust social protections.

In terms of think tanks, and policy prescription I think we've addressed, on numerous occasions, what the general thrust of views is and policy preferences as well. Part of the trick is that we are also simultaneously trying to build a Europe which has increasingly disparate parts, and so, in terms of economic narratives, we often times need to emphasize themes. For instance, the anglo-disease theme, which is an expression against anglo-american neo-liberalism at root, and for either social democracy (roughly two-thirds of participants on these thread) or proper socialism.

In terms of policy, what are my impressions of where people tend to fall here?

Education : we are, by and large, in favor of heavy investment in free, equitable and meritocratic education, from cradle to grave (eg maternelle through doctorat and/or real apprenticeship and technical education to continuing training throughout one's career).

Trade unionism: again, by and large, hugely supportive of workers rights to band together for better pay and work rights, and supportive of policies which make it easier for workers to engage in participatory workplace democracy and have a real say in how teir workplace is organized and operations. And for social stability policies which make it harder to firms to hire and fire at whim, ignoring the greater good of stable employment practises to pursue shareholder profits.

Tax policy I think everyone here is generally for a fundamentally and comprehensively progressive tax regime, and many articles over the months and years have been to address the regressivity of this that or the other tax proposal in the many countries of the union which are tending to be more than suitably enthralled with the anglo-american model.

Monetary policy Here, you have somewhat of a point, though I think most people arguing about what is accomodative or proper tend to end up in the same place: expansionary policies limited to those parts of the economy which produce sustainable jobs growth, tight policies for those parts of the market which are consumption-based or feed asset speculation. We argue about how best to get there, but I think most everyone would agree that the best policy is an expansionary one, for as you point out, there are wholly excluded portions of our respective member states, and this is wrong.

I could go on, and I will avoid some of the more "social" of policies, or the "civil liberties" ones because anyway I tend to be in the minority on those....this being said, your commentary about inclusion and exclusion, and of championing middle class versus working class, is really quite good and something we should reflect on. And, we've discussed this before. For my part, the absolute goal of proper policy is to work towards bringing the more vulnerable, the poor, among us, materially in line, in station, to the middle classes, even if this means the middle classes suffer a little. (Of course, we can make the wealthy trade a lot more...). When everyone is, roughly speaking, equal, people stop being "other," because that which differentiates one from the other becomes minimal and, that which was "other" is no longer scary and, is no longer scared too.

You can not ensure of course absolute equality, but certainly it is inexcusable that one person makes 100 times more than another, or that many (including much of the middle class) live in luxury while some have neither roofs over their heads nor enough money to proerly feed and clothe their children, even in many countries in the EU.

Problem is, at least for some here, that you cannot move comprehensively and forecfully towards a more just and equal society, thus improving the lot of the more vulnerable among us, without some measure of authority, order, and coercion and this rankles some hereabouts. I think Goethe said, and I'm sure I'm paraphrasing badly, "better injustice than disorder," which sounds, at first glance, really not very progressive or left, unless you stop to consider how much injustice is done when there is no order.  

I for one though am optimistic, and have this feeling that the great wave of materialism, and, well, anglo-american hedonism, is passing.

The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill

by r------ on Thu May 15th, 2008 at 09:54:26 PM EST
Adding, your comments on the completely unbalanced  American political spectrum are spot on, and with a few notable exceptions, I don't think anyone here would disagree.

The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill
by r------ on Thu May 15th, 2008 at 09:57:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks.

By the way, I think the anglo-disease narrative is really one of the masterpieces of this blog.
Just not telling much about 85% of the EU... Horst Koehler, the German president recently called the capital markets a 'monster'.

Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers

by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Fri May 16th, 2008 at 08:57:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I should finish a diary on that...

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sun May 18th, 2008 at 12:04:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... neoliberal ex-PM of Australia, John Howard, to refer to those with the living standard to be able to focus on problems beyond day to day survival and the education to be able to see through the BS smoke and mirrors presented by the neo-liberal government with their paternalistic conservative electoral allies, was "chardonnay socialist" ... he also dismissed them with the phrase "the chattering classes".

Whatever the specific phrase, the point of the framing is straightforward ... divide those with the time, education, and freedom from immediate want that allows them to organize around specific causes from those who are experiencing immiseration as a side effect of policies intended to enrich a few, and who do not tend to directly possess all three of those social resources.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Fri May 16th, 2008 at 10:21:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
redstar:
even if this means the middle classes suffer a little.

portugese peasant, here we come....

once the cravings pass a bit, and we settle into it, we'll wonder why we ever wanted to live another way, and  why it took us so long to accept...

if the net stays working, we can be digitised peasants!

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sun May 18th, 2008 at 06:42:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
absolutely.

well, maybe not everyone can be a portuguese peasant...we need shoemakers and seamstresses and woodworkers and mechanics and sailors and teachers, and even a few managers or cadres, modestly paid, perhaps no more than ten times the base wage at the top of the scale, all to help move everyone towards a good common goal.

and this, for all of us, and not just for those in western europe. for this "simple life" i think wee're both getting at is not a sacrifice for the vast majority of our fellow man in other parts of the world.

there may be a bit of a craving for many, but there'll be something else too - peace.

The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill

by r------ on Mon May 19th, 2008 at 09:51:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Speaking of portuguese shoemakers:

Blackspot - Blackspot Shoes

The Blackspot Shoes factory is located in a rural region of Portugal called Felgueiras, an area steeped in 400 years of shoe-making tradition. The factory has been owned and operated by the same family for three generations. The owners have a reputation for being excellent employers.

...

The minimum wage in Portugal is 365 Euros per month. Workers in this factory earn between 420 and 700 Euros per month, depending on their job and seniority. In addition to basic salary, workers receive 25 paid days off and two extra months of pay per year, which works out to 35% above minimum wage.

...

We met with employees who belong to the union; we met with workers who liaison between employees and the union (shop stewards); we met with union staff and staff of the government-run umbrella organization that administers the union. All meetings were in private. All the people we interviewed were unequivocal in their praise of the factory. A high degree of transparency was evident.



Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se
by A swedish kind of death on Mon May 19th, 2008 at 11:43:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That factory is obviously in dire need of reform :-P

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon May 19th, 2008 at 12:49:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
yup...right on all counts.

i saw an amazing documentary on arte about the italian immigrants to brazil after WW1. they arrived with almost nothing and recreated a most italian set up within 3 generations.

they chose land that reminded them of italy and made all their tools by hand, with an ingenious self-sufficiency that was so admirable.

the photography of their vineyards and wine cellars, their churches and their tools, were a revelation.

apparently there are more well preserved human powered tools there of european postmedieval design than can be found even in museums in italy.

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Mon May 19th, 2008 at 06:48:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
redstar:
without some measure of authority, order, and coercion and this rankles some hereabouts.

problem is, all the authority and coercion are on the side of disorder right now, which will be quicker, educating them to surrender without a fight, or learning how to use authority wisely, with moderation, fairness and restraint?

after we manage to get it, natch!

there are many of your comments that don't jive well with me, redstar, but this one sums up what i believe ET's aspirations are quite brilliantly, and reveals a lot about you that i can resonate with.

thanks

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sun May 18th, 2008 at 06:51:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
 Salon socialism, is that limo'n'latte liberalism?

not too much of that here, methinks...

are being 'middle class' and 'progressive' exclusive?

i used to be down on 'bourgeois' values, till i realised that the middle classes were a great improvement over the feudal system.

we need to fold the rich and starving both into the middle class, then throw away the concept for good...

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Fri May 16th, 2008 at 03:30:01 AM EST
European Tribune - Salon socialism on ET. A provocation
Why then is there such a bitter fight to attack influenceless anglo-saxon nonsense writers? Is it because attacking them gives the feeling of being on the left=good side without the necessity of real commitment?

Because they're far from influence-less, unfortunately.

What kind of commitment were you thinking of?

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Fri May 16th, 2008 at 04:01:59 AM EST
My ideal on economic issues could be defined as center-left c. 1960's and 1970's Germany or mainstream liberal American in the same era. That means there's a lot less distance to go in the EU than in the US. I'd also disagree that Obama is on the far right by European standards. It's difficult to achieve change, whether you're right or left. That means that the actual programs put out by right wing politicians in the EU are going to appear pretty left wing by US standards, but if you look at what the grass roots activists say before they start climbing the political ladder it's pretty clear that the long term aim among the bulk of the European right is very neo-liberal, while among the American left it's pretty social-democratic.

They then shift to the right - you've got a somewhat more right wing electorate, you have the fricking neo-lib bias in the media, and people are just afraid of radical change. Remember the reaction to the Clinton health care plan. He was elected with universal health care with a strong majority approving of that idea. However, the vast majority of voters already have insurance, and the same fear of losing it or seeing it get worse that was part of the support for UHC could also be exploited by the scaremongers.  And then there are the inevitable disruptions caused by change which grow with its degree. (E.g. I'd like to see the minimum wage at least double what it is now, but I don't think raising it to that level overnight would be a good idea.)  

What we need in this country is a sustained period of Democratic hegemony along with shifting the  party somewhat to the left; a difficult task which will  entail patience and plenty of frustration along the way. But I refuse to believe it's impossible, if I did I'd just try to tune out news and politics altogether. That or radicalism - but given that political freedom trumps economic justice that's going from bad to worse.  

by MarekNYC on Fri May 16th, 2008 at 04:03:13 AM EST
My observation of Obama as still right wing has several reasons.
  • in the beginning of his campaign he was attacking Clinton on her mandated health care, despite economists like Paul Krugman clearly say a mandate is necessary.
  • he has not even spoken about any welfare system, which lack is in my opinion one of the reasons for the high number of people in prison in the US.
  • he has spoken about plans to attack the housing crisis. High house prices help the banks and those who already own a house. It is not at all helpful for all others. The left thing to do about the housing crisis is clearly nothing.
  • He has promised no income tax increase for people earning less than 200,000 $, that's 97% of the population. How would he like to finance any real help for the weakest in the society, given that he has to increase the taxes for the rich alone to make the fiscal deficit sustainable?

You say the right wing wants more and more. That's outdated AFAIK. At least in Germany conservatives (like me) are mostly talking about conservation of the status quo=conservation, not change=progression. There are some issues, where conservatives want change, mainly targeting at families. I guess in the US this would count as left policy. Have you seen the CSU tax proposal Jerome had an diary about the WSJ reaction? The people who would getting the highest benefit from it proportional to their income would have been people with an income around 50k Euro a year.

Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers
by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Fri May 16th, 2008 at 08:34:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If you're going to suggest that the neo-libs are the natural enemies of the conservatives, you may have a point.

The neo-libs are the natural enemies of everyone. It's unfortunate that they've hidden themselves so well that more people don't realise this.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Fri May 16th, 2008 at 09:18:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
He was attacking Clinton on her mandated health care because her "plan" basically consisted of passing a law saying that everyone must buy insurance. It wasn't universal health care, it was highway robbery. His statements on the housing crisis that I remember were mostly about mortgage relief; helping people who'd been trapped into predatory mortgages. Since this group has a hefty proportion of poor blacks... As for the last point... What exactly is the problem here? He's proposing to increase taxes on the rich, who currently pay less than anyone else.
by Egarwaen on Fri May 16th, 2008 at 12:14:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
So the right answer to Clinton would have been extending the proposal, not come up with something which will still leave a lot of people uninsured.

And for the last point. The problem is, that it will not be enough to increase taxes only for the very rich, if he wants to bring real change. He won't be that transformative, that the US society changes in such a way, that it would become difficult for his successor to revert. He won't bring enough change, that the people can see that a social state works.

Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers

by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Fri May 16th, 2008 at 12:31:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You are correct to assert that progressive, or inclusive if you like this term better, policies cannot be pursued without a progressive tax structure which will cause large sections of the middle class to pay their fair share as well.

This being said, you can pretty well arguably wipe out the US federal budget deficit by taxing the top 1% at the same levels they were taxed at under the Nixon admnistration. And if you tax them at Eisenhower levels, you'll have enough to pay for healthcare reform.

Can't speak to income distributions or tax and revenue incidence in Germany, but in the US, that's how it works.

The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill

by r------ on Fri May 16th, 2008 at 12:38:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Ok, but to increase the taxes on the top 1% that much, it would be a point of honesty as well to tell that the electorate before the actual election.
Probably you as well don't believe that the US congress will double the maximum tax in the next four years.

Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers
by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Fri May 16th, 2008 at 12:54:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh no, absolutely I don't. And you are right, it is best to say you are going to do this, actually campaign on it, and frankly, I think it's an electoral winner, especially when you explain what you are going to do with the proceeds.

But neither party in the US believes in fair taxation, because their major funding sources would not be happy with paying their fair share. The free rider problem is one of many flaws of basic human nature, and the concentration of power in the US has gone so far as to make reform very difficult, if possible at all. Imho.

The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill

by r------ on Fri May 16th, 2008 at 01:42:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
So... You think that legalized highway robbery by the insurance companies is the right answer to health care, but it just needs to go farther? Remember, Clinton's plan was "pass a law requiring that everyone pay for insurance". That's like saying we can eliminate homelessness and starvation by passing a law requiring that everyone pay for a home and food. The right answer to that proposal isn't to extend it, it's to encase it in concrete and dump it into the Mariana Trench. Obama's plan isn't the best it could be (that would be the dread "socialized medicine"), but it's sure as hell better than Clinton's.
by Egarwaen on Fri May 16th, 2008 at 12:38:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I thought CLinton's plan also gave people the option to choose the same federal insurance plan government workers get, and at a reasonable rate, too.

The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill
by r------ on Fri May 16th, 2008 at 12:43:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You're confusing the Edwards and Clinton plans. Understandable because the media has argued they're the same. But that's actually the Edwards plan which was designed to destroy the insurance companies and introduce single payer by the back door. Clinton's federal option is that of a bare bones plan.
by MarekNYC on Fri May 16th, 2008 at 01:33:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Stand corrected. That's right, Clinton's basic plan is, if I'm not mistaken, a simple "catastrophic" plan, ie doesn't cover much of anything until your out of pocket is like $10K/year. Forgot that.

The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill
by r------ on Fri May 16th, 2008 at 01:44:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
So here it is Ok to compromise and not to run for socialised health care, despite it is proveable better than the current US system?

Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers
by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Fri May 16th, 2008 at 12:56:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You are, of course, correct in your characterisation of what he was doing in attackign Clinton's plan.

This being said, his own plan cannot be fairly characterised as comprehensive, progressive or universal, either. Standard-fare Democratic party incrementalism.

You really only have to look at who his chief economic advisor is. That's not left, the economic policy an Obama administration is likely to pursue. It's the American centre, or the European far right.

The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill

by r------ on Fri May 16th, 2008 at 12:32:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
He was attacking Clinton on her mandated health care because her "plan" basically consisted of passing a law saying that everyone must buy insurance. It wasn't universal health care, it was highway robbery.

Is the word "basically" here used in the sense of, "not in reality, but can be caricatured as?"

If a pay or play plan has a cap at 15% of income, payments from the employer under the "pay" option directed to the plan selected by the employee, whether the employee chooses a community-rated private plan or a community-rated public plan ...

... it seems to me that it consists of something more than "passing a law saying that everyone must buy insurance". Indeed, that a claim that is "basically" amounts to that is confused at best, deliberate politically-inspired misinformation at worst.

There are some places where Senator Clinton watered down the original Edwards plan so that she could claim "it will create no new bureaucracies", but there is no doubt which of the two were (since the NC and IN results, that is past tense) closer to Universal Health Care proposals.

No plan that can get through Congress could be what most Europeans take for granted as a bare minimum for a civilized society, but Senator Clinton's would have been a more serious step in that direction.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Fri May 16th, 2008 at 02:02:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
While I agree with you on mandates, the difference between the two plans is pretty small.

On taxes - let's get real. One of the key components of the Democratic coalition is the blue coastal metropolitan areas upper middle class (New Jersey 17% of Dem primary voters earned over 150K, Maryland 18%). And while one way of looking at it is the 97% figure, another is 'a little over double the median income of a family of four' in the NYC suburbs. Furthermore, it's still a pretty huge part of the total income pie. He's also planning on scrapping the SS cap meaning that the effective top federal marginal rate would end up at 47%. And that's federal - most states and some local governments have their own income tax, here in NYC you'd be looking at a top marginal rate of over sixty percent - care to compare that to your country? Plus he's proposing increasing the capital gains tax from the current 15% to 28%. All in all the wealthy are looking at their biggest tax hike in living memory - remind me, what did the most recent SPD government do? Care to refresh my memory on what sort of platform the CD's were running on in the last election?

Housing - I have some sympathy for your point of view, but it isn't at all clear what the progressive position should be on a crisis which is disproportionately affecting both middle income and minority households.

by MarekNYC on Fri May 16th, 2008 at 01:09:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... the plans.

The first is the "hope for a miracle" approach to universal coverage in Senator Obama's plan.

The second is that the "pay" side of the "pay or play" does not go directly to funding the coverage of the employee, but is pooled into the funding base for the public plan, encouraging better paid employees to stay clear of the public plan.

The first is for political expediency, since focus grouping of younger voters will find that many of them prefer the "don't start paying in until you get sick" approach.

The second is to arrive at a small budgetary cost, since its a system that reduces the amount that the government must provide at the outset to subsidize the funding for lower-income workers.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Fri May 16th, 2008 at 02:08:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
BruceMcF:

The second is that the "pay" side of the "pay or play" does not go directly to funding the coverage of the employee, but is pooled into the funding base for the public plan, encouraging better paid employees to stay clear of the public plan.

yeah, no sense in the USA importing the bugs in the euro healthcare systems.

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sun May 18th, 2008 at 06:57:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Scapping the social security cap is not helpful. SS has surplusses so far. As this surplus is usually folded in the general deficit number, a higher SS cap will only lead to fake consoldidation. In the end it will come, that either the SS fund is looted in the general budge.

In Germany the top marginal rate you can get with a sufficient unlucky construction is over 80% if you are already at the top rate of income tax, but below the cap of social insurances.
The capital gains tax then however would be higher than here.
The SPD gov reduced the max income tax rate from 56% to 43%. However the current Merkel gov increased the rate again to 47.5% (but only for people well above the cap of social security), despite Merkel promised lower income taxes before the election. But if I look to last years budget surplus, I would say we can afford lower income taxes than in the US. We don't have to finance an inflated stock of state employees and the fanciest high tech stuff for our military as the US seems to have to.
And Obama will not cut the military budget by much.

Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers

by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Fri May 16th, 2008 at 03:48:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Scapping the social security cap is not helpful. SS has surplusses so far. As this surplus is usually folded in the general deficit number, a higher SS cap will only lead to fake consoldidation. In the end it will come, that either the SS fund is looted in the general budge.

How is it not helpful. As you point out, the SS surplus is fake since it is folded into the general budget. That means that the idea that the SS tax is not a tax but an insurance payment is a fiction. So a capped SS tax is simply a way of making the tax system regressive.

by MarekNYC on Fri May 16th, 2008 at 03:59:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
So you have already given up the hope, that the social security fund will ever really be used to fund social security?

I thought it would not be helpful, because it covers that the revenue which was intended to spend on all the other stuff is not enough for all the other stuff. Some people even think the war in Iraq was only possible, because of the deception of the real shape of budget. The right thing in my opinion would be to announce the deficit numbers independent of the SS fund.
In Europe the retirement fonds are as well part of the unified budget deficit numbers. But in Europe these funds have deficits and capital based retirement is done entirely in 401(k) similar plans.

Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers

by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Fri May 16th, 2008 at 05:17:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Poll answer: because we're too busy slowing down the social change in the American direction.

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri May 16th, 2008 at 04:53:43 AM EST
I also disagree fundamentally with your analysis on another count: You separate the class interests of the Middle and Lower class. While you are certainly right that in principle there is no reason to expect that their interests will always be aligned, empirically speaking it seems to be overwhelmingly the case.

I haven't got any hard numbers, but looking over the societies I know and the policy proposals that I have in the forefront of my mind, there is a strong connection between societies and proposals that favour and promote a large middle class and those that favour and promote improved conditions for the poor.

It makes sense too; after all, the middle class was created out of the lower class at the expense of the upper class. And proposals favouring the middle class would tend to be financed by the upper class more than the lower class. If for no other reason then because, as Willie Sutton said, "that's where the money is."

As you point out this is not always the case, of course, and the exceptions where the middle class robs the poor are just as unjust as the examples of the rich robbing the poor and the middle class. But they do seem to be less common.

(As an aside, there is also the pragmatic need to build coalitions - championing the lower 90-99 % of society is a lot more effective than championing the lower 30 %...)

Finally, I disagree with your analysis of the reasons that the greens ally with the conservatives. I have seen no credible indication that environmental concerns are less on the forefront of poor people's minds than on rich people's. I would suggest, rather, that the friendliness between the greens and the conservatives is due to the fact that there exist conservatives who are not complete idiots (and thus realise the lack of foresight involved in depositing one's excrement in one's own nest) combined with the existence of greens who show insufficient interest in economic issues (and thus can be bamboozled by fast-talking right-wing "economists" and politicians into thinking that neoliberal policies aren't that bad after all).

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Fri May 16th, 2008 at 04:58:33 AM EST
I disagree fundamentally with the conflation of "middle class" with "middle income". The two are not the same.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri May 16th, 2008 at 07:11:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What is the difference?

(I could think of several, but there is so much overlap for all metrics I can think of that it almost makes the distinction academic.)

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Fri May 16th, 2008 at 08:00:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If you're fundamentally dependent on someone giving you a job, you're working class. Middle class requires some significant economic independence. Conflating the two has been a great victory for the right.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri May 16th, 2008 at 08:05:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That's a difference between the Victorian Era definition of "middle class" in the UK - which included Ireland - and the way it caught on in the Continent. In French, your definition would correspond to "profession libérale", whereas "Class Moyenne" refers to anyone with income allowing for a similar way of life as that afforded to those with median income.

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères
by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Fri May 16th, 2008 at 08:11:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, and maybe that distinction is part of what keeps (kept?) the discussion in France a little bit saner. It's lost entirely here.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri May 16th, 2008 at 11:40:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In French, your definition would correspond to "profession libérale", whereas "Class Moyenne" refers to anyone with income allowing for a similar way of life as that afforded to those with median income.

The same distinction is made in Germany and Hungary, though the difference of the terms isn't commonly stressed.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sun May 18th, 2008 at 11:02:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That's an interesting definition. I used to go by the definition that the underclass was the non-tenured worker (McJobs) and the middle class was the tenured worker (officers, policemen, professors, tenured civil servants). The upper class was the fatcats.

But I can see the advantages of your way of defining things.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Fri May 16th, 2008 at 05:12:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Here's a proposition: it's not, in the main, the middle class by my definition that's suffering in the US these days. It's the middle income group that's being crushed. i don't know if it's true, but I have a strong suspicion ...
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri May 16th, 2008 at 05:18:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Your definition is as well what Fricke was talking about in the FTD.


Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers
by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Fri May 16th, 2008 at 05:19:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... the English and American definitions of Middle Class.

In America, the term means the Middle Income Class, and the "Great American Middle Class" created as a result of the Great Compression of roughly 1936-1945 is only coherent when understood as a Middle Income Class.

And primarily composed of people, who living as workers in a low-wage economy, could never have aspired to the standard of living of those who would have been Middle Class in the UK sense before the Great Compression.

The great Republican political project of the last half century has been to exploit cultural and economic fault lines to fracture the politic expression of the GAMC in the New Deal Coalition.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Fri May 16th, 2008 at 02:16:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
as Willie Sutton said, "that's where the money is."
Only partially true. The highly mobile capital is difficult to tax and the big bulk of income is still with people who work for money, of course the degree of this varies from country to country, but in Germany it is very clear that any meaningful revenue increase of income tax would target on people earning between 50-100k Euros a year. Maybe this doesn't count as middle class for you any more, but I guess it does.

It makes sense too; after all, the middle class was created out of the lower class at the expense of the upper class.
Not really, the middle class was born in a large chunk by productivity increase. Not by confiscatory taxes.

championing the lower 90-99 % of society
Then you end up with mostly symbolic policy without real impact.

Finally, I disagree with your analysis of the reasons that the greens ally with the conservatives.
Personal experience and (German) media consumption lead very clearly to my conclusions. It maybe that it is country specific.
Anyhow, did you know that the "Stromeinspeisungsgesetz" 1991, which guarantees fixed prices for renewable energies was implemented by a conservative gov. Did you know that about 67% of the German taxes on car fuel were implemented by CDU led govs, the biggest increases and of the eighties and in the nineties by Kohl?
Did you know that in Germany the ministry for environment was founded and hold for the first 12 years by conservatives?
It can be simply a sign of the corresponding times, but in my opinion the conservatives have been and are today overall more environment friendly than the social democrats.

Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers

by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Fri May 16th, 2008 at 08:15:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Not really, the middle class was born in a large chunk by productivity increase. Not by confiscatory taxes.

Yes it was, at least in France and the US, with the help of inflation and wars.

The Middle Class was built in the 50's and 60's when the top marginal rates were around 90%. Those targeted not incomes equivalent to 50-100 k€ (the top decile) but much higher incomes, essentially the top centile and even narrower tranches of income (something nowadays politicians dare not do). Associated with a higher Estate Tax, this made sure the share of the GDP going to the top percentile got much lower (from as high as 20 % of global income...), with a corresponding rise of the share of income going to the rest of society.

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères

by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Fri May 16th, 2008 at 08:24:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
OK, if you count wars, then this may have played a role in Germany, too. But wealth destruction is not what made the middle class rich. Inflation is even bad for the middle class, as the rich often owned real estate and that stuff, which is relative inflation save, while the middle class stores much as money.
Germany is here as well special, because as most people rent instead of owning a house (and more so in the past), a large chuck of the middle class really owns mostly interest paying money.

Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers
by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Fri May 16th, 2008 at 08:42:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There is no wealth destruction in what I am describing ; rather, wealth redistribution. The rise of the state as a large employer certainly helped the creation of the middle class, too : for example the number of secondary school teachers is much higher than used to be.

The very rich (those whose wealth got redistributed) usually own financial capital rather than real estate, too (At least in France). That is much more sensitive to inflation. The effect of renting wrt inflation also depends on the regulatory environment ; rents in the regulated 20's to 60's in France fell very, very low as their variation fell behind inflation.

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères

by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Fri May 16th, 2008 at 08:49:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
High inflation leads to lower PE ratios. For those who never want to sell 'their' business, a phase of inflation is not that problematic. And Germany had a currency reform as well after WW I, not only after WW II. On industrialisation Germany was as well late, compared with UK.

I think stock markets have a much longer tradition in the US and France than in Germany. Here the traditional enterprise is personal business with low equity and a lot of credit. So the rich people in Germany are often large borrowers of money from the middle class (their workers), instead of creditors. In recent years there are increasingly people with lots of money, who have never been entrepreneurs, but I think that is really a newer development.

Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers

by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Fri May 16th, 2008 at 09:19:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm ready to believe a lot of the equalisation of Germany happened straight after WWII, be it in the East or in the  West... It sounds much like a special case.

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères
by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Fri May 16th, 2008 at 09:31:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, it probably is, but 'special' are in a way probably also the countries which had 40 years of communism, the ones like Ireland, which were long rather poor and then had exploding growth, the ones like Switzerland profiting from tax evasion of other countries,...
There maybe over 200 different countries in the world, which may have nearly as much different histories...

However, today even when taking more from the very rich is feasible, it would be an illusion to think one can help all the weaker people in the society without a large contribution of those who are just rich, but not the very rich.

Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers

by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Fri May 16th, 2008 at 09:50:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
However, even if two world wars and what followed them were the most effective in reducing the power of the old upper class, I do think that you underplay the role of redistribution, and that during Bismarck, the Social Democrat Weimar times, and (lest we formget) the Nazis, too.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sun May 18th, 2008 at 11:17:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The point of destroying the upper upper class, of impoverishing it through heavy taxation, was to neutralize a center of power that existed outside of democratic institutions, and unaccountable to no one, playing for itself and itself alone.

The benefit is a much lower cost of governance as you don't have to fight teeth and nails for every itsy-bitty reform against skewed, bought and paid media, politicians and opinion makers. Then, it becomes much easier to create single-payer health care systems, public corporations to develop infrastructures, universal retirement insurance, etc.

by Francois in Paris on Fri May 16th, 2008 at 11:14:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... decade, from 36-45, and was quite obviously based on government policies, both income redistribution policies and policies supporting rights to organize labor unions which, if not at parity with the rights to organize financial capital unions (aka commercial corporations), were at least close enough to allow them to exercise substantial political and economic leverage.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Fri May 16th, 2008 at 02:19:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
hm, i thought it was mostly the gi.bill....and the fact that resource wise america hadn't tapped out their own oil yet.

what were gas prices then, 5c a gallon?

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sun May 18th, 2008 at 07:08:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
and the fact that resource wise america hadn't tapped out their own oil yet.

what were gas prices then, 5c a gallon?

First part true, there were even strict tariffs on oil imports. Second part not so much - in current dollars gas was in the $2.00-$2.50 range for most of the period between WWII and the first oil shock. Furthermore, mileage and salaries were lower.

by MarekNYC on Sun May 18th, 2008 at 09:32:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't buy the notion that you can't tax capital because it can move. There is no law of nature that says that capital is freely moveable across borders. That is a political choice. It would be entirely possible to make a law saying that one must pay X % tax on all capital movement across borders in excess of € N. We may have to shoot the WTO in the head and dump it in a shallow grave first, but if that is the case then, frankly, good riddance.

But I am not talking about confiscatory taxation when I say that the middle class exists at the expense of the upper class. I am talking about a social system that makes sure that the gains from productivity (increases) are distributed in an equitable fashion. The difference, in other words, between Roosevelt capitalism and Reagan Capitalism. My apologies for being unclear.

If, however, you would argue that equitable sharing of the gains of productivity increases does not happen at the cost of the upper class, then I would ask why the current crop of upper class seems to disagree with you about that?

The Danish welfare model has been described with some accuracy as "the richest 90 % paying to the poorest 90 %." I should think that the achievements of the Scandinavian social system are rather more than merely symbolic.

Germany is weird w.r.t. environmental policy. Or maybe I'm just being anglophile here (in terms of what defines the political spectrum, Denmark is a surprisingly anglophile country, I think). But my hat is off to the German conservatives. Some of them are a bit too cosy with the Papacy for my taste, but I'll take someone brownnosing the Pope to someone brownnosing Washington any day on the week and twice on Sundays.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Fri May 16th, 2008 at 05:51:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Germany is weird w.r.t. environmental policy. Or maybe I'm just being anglophile here (in terms of what defines the political spectrum

I think it's less weird - I definitely think that Kohl's CDU jumped on the environmentalism bandwagon out of fear of votes (one shouldn't discuss this without forgetting the sometimes violent mass protests), and did so without real conviction. Some of it was motivated by the opportunity hopes of the firendly high-tech industry.

I note though towards Martin that

  1. everything was done half-way, say the original feed-in law didn't 'threaten' the power giants and was so unfit for say photovoltaics that Siemens outsourced its PV unit in the middle of the nineties [to later bring it back];
  2. the fuel taxes weren't pushed up in the eighties for environmental reasons;
  3. the Greens entered Parliament during Kohl's first re-election, so no wonder the first federal environment ministers were conservatives - however, the federal post was originally created as a placative measure after Chernobyl, and it was preceded one year by Joschka Fischer's inauguration as environment minister of Hessen state.



*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sun May 18th, 2008 at 11:37:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
My god, cannot he wear proper shoes?

The suit is bad enough, smacking of those social-democratic leisure suits from the 1980's. But with those shoes, man!

I wonder how he takes himself seriously when he arrives to work...

The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill

by r------ on Mon May 19th, 2008 at 09:44:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
adding, for god's sake, the man is wearing NIKE, the shoemaking sweatshop pioneers!


The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill
by r------ on Mon May 19th, 2008 at 09:56:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You sound like a petty bourgeois.

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon May 19th, 2008 at 12:59:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
????

No. I simply know how to dress.

If you're going to wear a business suit of any kind, don't wear Nike. Alternately, if you are going to wear a swim suit, dress shoes look equally silly.

I'm sure he thought he was making a point by wearing his sweat-shop made tennis shoes with his thoroughly social-democratic "business" suit, but I'm equally sure it was lost on everyone but his (limited circle of) supporters.

The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill

by r------ on Mon May 19th, 2008 at 01:06:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And "knowing how to dress" is a class marker.

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon May 19th, 2008 at 01:10:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Disagree.

When you have a properly equal society, everyone knows how to dress properly. A very wealthy American friend of mine who knows France well, travels to Paris a lot, once remarked of his frustration at the fact it was impossible for him to tell, based on how a Parisienne dressed, a sales woman from La Redoute from a properly bourgeoise woman from Neuilly.

Obviously he exagerrates a bit, but the underlying point was true, and this to me is a good thing. Everyone should have access to the same expression of common aesthetic sensibilities. Not just those who have far too much money and subsequently create their markers, to which you allude (and incidentally create counter markers in the underclass, as a reaction).

Not to say everyone should conform to a proper dress code, but there's a difference, you know, between differentiation of modes of dress informed by great inequality (against which we should always be striving) and those informed by simple attention-seeking. Note take that there will always be somewhat less than serious people who will wear school-boy knickers with their business suits or something similar, so as to make a certain impression, often bourne of an over-excessive consciousness of self.

Anyhow, since the object of my comment is a German Green, I rather doubt the sneakers were a statement of class consciousness.

The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill

by r------ on Mon May 19th, 2008 at 01:23:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It is a well known fact that the French have class while Americans generally don't.

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue May 20th, 2008 at 02:57:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
  1. Half way is better than nothing.
  2. Why does the intention matter?
  3. But an environmental movement existed already longer. Why have the former SPD chancellors not taken it up. And stealing ideas from the opposition is a virtue of a gov, not a failure.


Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers
by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Mon May 19th, 2008 at 09:57:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What makes a tax "confiscatory"?

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri May 16th, 2008 at 06:54:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A taxation of an asset, which is higher than the real revenue you get from it.

Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers
by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Fri May 16th, 2008 at 06:59:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What if you have a valuable, productive asset but you choose to leave it idle producing no revenue? The point of taxing wealth and not income is that it acts as an incentive to use wealth productively or sell it to others who will. And taxing income generally acts as a disincentive to economic activity (though it is not true progressive taxation of incomes is bad for economic activity because it is a disincentive to entrepreneurship - it isn't).

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri May 16th, 2008 at 07:20:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh, man. That is not what this was originally about.

However, I'm not a BIPist. If some people own so much of a scarce and important resource, that they can dictate the society how to behave, then there is a problem. If you only put a ton of gold in your basement, what's the problem?
I want to have the right to let my assets be as idle as I want, without losing them. What is possession of something if I can't decide to do what I want with it. Why are others deciding that my gold is an asset, while I think of it as my shrine for the god chrom.

And high taxation has slowing effects on the economy. Maybe not for entrepreneurship. But e.g. for the willingness of nurses to work extra hours over the trade agreement it has. I have currently the impression that the taxation at the moment is more or less fine as it is.

Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers

by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Fri May 16th, 2008 at 09:53:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Gold is probably one very rare example of highly valued yet truly useless assets. Please find another example and see if it works.

And high taxation has slowing effects on the economy.

No. Misallocation of resources and investments has slowing effects on the economy.

Taxation is about property structure. Various property structures may or may not be conducive to an efficient allocation of resources and a well-oiled economy. But this is very dependent on cultural factors. In a situation of highly concentrated private ownership, society becomes completely dependent on the moral tenets and social goals of a narrow propertied class. It may or, far more often, may not work.

by Francois in Paris on Fri May 16th, 2008 at 11:25:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, if you exclude gold, then probably as well art and that stuff.

Another example.
Somebody lives together with his elderly parents in their home. He is an poor artist, while his parents were lawyers and so have a big house in a good site. When his parents die, the rooms in the house, where his parents lived before, are empty and unused. Neither does he want others in his home, nor want others, who could pay him enough to pay  an appropriate wealth tax live in a home with him. So a wealth tax will force him to sell the house.

Another example.
Somebody owns a piece of forest. The value is given by similar pieces of forest, where forestry is going on. Unfortunately the most profitable forestry is in monocultures. He loves butterflies and knows that the variety of butterflies in his piece of wood will drop, when the different trees are substituted by a monoculture.

The other question is of course, if you have an income tax and a wealth tax, will with 3% inflation the net income after a wealth tax conserve the principal? If one reduces income tax and increases wealth tax, then the lucky who make more money with their wealth than the average pay a lower share of their income, than the unlucky.

Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers

by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Sat May 17th, 2008 at 08:28:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
These are all heart-wrenching examples. But consider these counter-examples, which - unlike yours - aren't hypothetical:

Someone inherits millions and builds a media empire with them, which he then uses to get himself elected president, with disastrous results for everyone except himself and his cronies.

Someone else inherits millions and uses them to build an international newspaper and TV empire, which he uses to spew racism and banality and to influence the election outcomes of all of the developed countries which don't have equal-time rules.

Someone else inherits millions and uses them to propagandise 'small government.' He wants 'government drowned in a bathtub' and when a hurricane strikes a major city he gets his wish. Meanwhile his cronies plunder the national treasury and start a disastrous - but profitable - war.

I could go on. There's not shortage of examples to choose from.

Politically, trust fund babies like these are poisonous to democracy. They're born with massive power and an equally massive sense of spurious entitlement.

If you're looking for the origins of Anglo-Disease, these are its disease vectors.

Making sure they pay their way and aren't allowed to run around breaking everything they touch is the main reason for high levels of progressive taxation. Not only does taxing them give governments more money to spend on social investment, it also means they have to get a proper job like everyone else, instead of being dilettante politicians, which is what so many of them seem to aspire to.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sat May 17th, 2008 at 10:15:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Maybe may second example is really a bit hypothetical. The first I don't think to be hypothetical at all.

Berlusconi, Murdoch & CO own shares of the media market, which are huge and were partially not build up organically, but bought together. Nothing would have spoken against forbidding them to buy so large shares of the media market. In Germany the ProSieben-SatEins Media AG (TV), could not be sold to the Springer ("BILD") publishing company, because they already have so much market share with newspapers. That would even work, if those media networks were profitable (what I think they are). As in case of Murdoch we are speaking of a stock corporation (?), how would you value the corporation for the wealth tax anyhow? Isn't the stock market value, which will be low, if the earnings are low, the best measure for the value of a stock based corporation?
My personal opinion is, that strong public media is the best remedy for such kind of opinion manipulation. Of course there has to be a layer between the politicians and the media. ARD/ZDF in Germany work rather good. I think BBC in UK is as well OK, but has already a bit more problems to keep itself out of reach of politicians

Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers

by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Sat May 17th, 2008 at 10:40:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Martin:
Nothing would have spoken against forbidding them to buy so large shares of the media market.

Except when you already own that much of the press all you have to do is threaten politicians with a negative campaign if they don't pass your favourite 'liberalising', legislation and their careers will be over.

This is part of what happened in the US with media deregulation, and part of what happened in the UK - although Thatcher already had press support before the election, and didn't need to be convinced to hand over democracy to a press thug like Murdoch.

Martin:

As in case of Murdoch we are speaking of a stock corporation (?), how would you value the corporation for the wealth tax anyhow? Isn't the stock market value, which will be low, if the earnings are low, the best measure for the value of a stock based corporation?

It's all Capital Gains and/or Inheritance, both of which are taxed leniently in the Anglo countries, especially on large estates.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sat May 17th, 2008 at 12:38:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If I may be allowed to argue by 19th Century Liberal Economist (hardly suspect of being a dangerous red revolutionary, you'll agree), John Stuart Mill defended inheritance taxed by arguing that the principle of private property (the right to keep and enjoy the fruits of one's own labour) protects the right to give gifts and to leave property in inheritance, but doesn't protect the right to receive gifts or inheritance in an unlimited amount. Inherited wealth is unearned wealth whichever way you look at it.

Back in the 18th and 19th century English economists were very interested in the differences between English and French law (the writings of J S Mill but also A Smith are full of comparative political economy) and one of the main differences was that in England inheritance tended to go undivided to the eldest son, whereas in France it was equitably divided among all the children. Inheritance taxes and legally mandated division of inheritances work to prevent the accumulation of excessive fortunes in the hands of a few over the generations and are an unqualified social good.

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat May 17th, 2008 at 12:03:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Inherited wealth is unearned wealth whichever way you look at it.
Actually we were speaking about wealth tax, which is something different than inheritance tax.

However, for inheritance tax I don't think it matters, if it is unearned wealth. It is the sole right of the person who makes the gift, not the person who recieves.

Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers

by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Sat May 17th, 2008 at 12:20:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Your example was that of someone who inherits a house.

It is not the person who leaves the inheritance that is taxed, but the recipient f it. I said the principle of private property doesn't limit the right to give inheritance, but it does limit the right to receive it.

The question is whether you want a system which amplifies wealth differences or not, quite simply.

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat May 17th, 2008 at 12:24:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
So after one has paid any potential inheritance tax, you would exempt the property of a potential wealth tax?

Francois asked me to bring up other examples than gold, for why somebody would not use an asset for producing revenue. He should have asked you, as you brought the idea up, that a wealth tax is better than a pure income tax, because of the incencitive to use the asset.
I have invented a rather realistic example.
And yes, of course there is the question, what system one wants. And as all the examples others brought up, were about much bigger wealth, the question is, amplifying wealth to which degree, so that e.g. one answer to my example could have been, to speak about a wealth tax only for the people who are much richer than just a selfused property, even if it is a house in Munich. Another answer is to tax appropriately already on that level, as it already means to be much richer than most others. And these answers have different effects and will attract different voters. However, what's your problem? I said, I want something specific. Some comments later you write the question is what I want. That I said in the first place.

From my first diary: "Conservatism means a declining loyalty starting with individuum, family, region, country, (Europe), world." I see property not only as individual property, but as 'clans/family' property. Inheritance is only the formal overscription of the 'clans' property to the next generation, while the real ownership, that one by the clan, does not really change.

Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers

by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Sat May 17th, 2008 at 01:36:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Your talk about "clan ownership" indicates you have no problem with the creation of dynasties, which is exactly what the whole wealth redistribution programme is about whether it takes place via wealth or inheritance taxes.

Having clarified our positions regarding dynasties, we have to agree to disagree.

Anyway, to answer your question, taxing wealth is independent of taxing unearned windfall income (be it inheritance, gifts or capital gains).

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat May 17th, 2008 at 01:42:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
As for wealth tax, I don't see the problem in a modest tax on wealth, say 1% per year. As "risk-free" government bonds should be able to beat inflation by 1% any reasonably productive asset should allow for a 1% wealth tax plus inflation plus a decent return. New worth of €1M already should provide enough income to match the GDP per capita in Europe so I cannot see any reason not to tax wealth.

The Wikipedia article on Wealth Tax claims the rate in Switzerland is progressive up to 1.5%, in various US states it varies from 1% to 4%, and in France the Solidarity Tax on Wealth taxes up to 1.8% for wealth above €750k (but the lowest nonzero marginal rate is .55% and the highest rate is only reached at €15M).

None of this seems "confiscatory".

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat May 17th, 2008 at 01:13:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
For New worth read: Net worth, obviously.

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat May 17th, 2008 at 01:16:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
So you support my original thesis 100% ?
... not really, the middle class was born in a large chunk by productivity increase. Not by confiscatory taxes.

Why were you arguing in the first place?

Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers

by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Sat May 17th, 2008 at 01:40:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I was arguing because "confiscatory" smacked of narrative framing, similar to the use of the expression "death tax".

I believe redistributive taxation played a huge role in creating the middle class, but I don't know my econometric or economic history to be able to back that assertion.

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat May 17th, 2008 at 05:10:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The issue is that it hits the upper middle class. The cut-off levels are wrong and the imposition levels are wrong.

A proper asset tax will hit at, say, 10 millions euros at a few percents then at 100 millions euros with annual rates of 20%, etc.

The goal is to prevent anyone from amassing enough wealth to interfere by sheer economic power with the institutions.

Berlusconi would simply not exist in this system.

by Francois in Paris on Sat May 17th, 2008 at 06:04:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Martin, your second is easy to wave off. Transfer your forest to a conservatory. End of story.

The first example is a red-herring. Successful professionals. It's worth, what?, 5 or 10 millions euros. Those are not an issue. My problem is with Silvio Berlusconi, the Bush family, Francois-Henri Pinault, those levels of wealth.

Essentially, the division is between people who are well off but fully dependent on society and its common infrastructure for their daily life - police, hospitals, etc. - and those are rich enough to try to isolate themselves and abstract their person from society while profiting from its benefits and influencing it for their sole benefit.

This argument is a common plow in debates about taxation: conflating vastly different levels of wealth as a single issue. The right wing is using it actively, because 1) they are paid to do that and 2) it creates a false solidarity between well-off upper middle class, most of it meritocratic in nature and who are politically influential, and the truly rich, who, by dint of their very small numbers, have no influence except the one they buy. The left wing is also falling for it and helping the right-wing by making the same conflation by hammering the upper middle classes (easy) rather than attacking the truly rich (a far more complex task and, occasionally, a dangerous one).

As I mentioned in another comment, asset taxes, inheritance taxes and very high taxation of very high incomes are not an issue of social justice and redistribution but a matter of institutional stability and democratic health.

by Francois in Paris on Sat May 17th, 2008 at 07:47:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
From what I already answered to Migeru earlier:

"And as all the examples others brought up, were about much bigger wealth, the question is, amplifying wealth to which degree, so that e.g. one answer to my example could have been, to speak about a wealth tax only for the people who are much richer than just a selfused property, even if it is a house in Munich. [...]"

I was asked to bring up examples why somebody doesn't use a viable asset to make revenue from it. Actually I was the wrong receiver, as Migeru brought the idea up, that wealth should be taxed because otherwise productive assets might not be used. You could have said before what dimension of wealth we are talking...

I in general dislike such taxes, but if the wealth is so much that as you say it is a matter of institutional stability and democratic health, I agree that something has to be done, despite one can discuss what.

Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers

by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Sat May 17th, 2008 at 08:30:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
But the examples you bring up are a red herring because nobody proposes prohibitive taxation of such assets.

Although I think that a case can actually be made for taxing a single person living alone in a two-family house at levels he will find painful.

First, such taxes serve to restrain speculative bubbles in the real estate market - bubbles that do real harm to first-time buyers even on the occasions where they are deflated more or less peacefully, nevermind the cases where they bring the whole economy to a screeching halt.

Second, if you have an apartment designed for ten to fifteen people (yes, we actually have such apartments in Copenhagen), then you have to supply public infrastructure for ten to fifteen people, because infrastructure planning has a somewhat longer time horizon than home-ownership (at least good infrastructure planning has).

And finally, I would remark that living space in cities is a very much finite resource - and I think it's fair enough that people who hold down more than the average share of finite and valuable resources pay through their nose for the privilege.

But that is a somewhat different discussion (then again, this thread has been threadjacked so many times already, so what's one more...)

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sun May 18th, 2008 at 04:25:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
How did you turn "prograssive taxation" which means high taxation of high incomes into "high taxation of nurses' overtime pay"?

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat May 17th, 2008 at 05:54:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I was assuming the current taxation, which has currently the effect.

Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers
by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Sat May 17th, 2008 at 08:07:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
From Spiegel, 2005 about for supporting my view, that nurses and progressive tax will as well in the future have something in common:
"The additional tax step to 45% was for earners of 250,000 Euro+ [..., that was an 3% increase]
SPD general secretary Klaus Uwe Benneter said the additional income would be 1.2 to 1.5 bn Euro. [...]"
The constitutional court has ruled, that the tax rate must not be significanty above 50%. But obviously even an increase to lets say 75% income tax for the really rich, would only fill additional 15 bn Euro into pockets of the public spending more than a trillion. Actually that was this diary all about.

Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers
by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Sat May 17th, 2008 at 10:21:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I want to have the right to let my assets be as idle as I want, without losing them. What is possession of something if I can't decide to do what I want with it. Why are others deciding that my gold is an asset, while I think of it as my shrine for the god chrom.

What allows you to have possession of assets and to do as you please with them is that society - the community you live in - decides to protect your right. But that comes at the cost of supporting the functioning of said society or community. If the society at large decides that gold is an asset that shouldn't be hoarded, then either you put up - in exchange for society's protection of your other property claims - or you hire a bunch of thugs to protect your assets from those thieves outside your door who call themselves "the community".

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat May 17th, 2008 at 06:57:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If the society at large decides
Yes if it does. And I'm part of the society and I decide with my vote on election among other things about this question.
And if in the parliament a majority decides against my will, I would in this case still follow the law, even if I don't like it. But currently the society has decided - at large - that this goes the way I want it.

Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers
by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Sat May 17th, 2008 at 08:36:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In that case you'd have no problem with allowing democratic access to corporate governance as well?

The Conservative view always seems to be reducible to 'I have mine and I don't want to share with anyone.'

This is fine as far as it goes, but unfortunately in a world where there are plenty of redistribution channels which exist solely to steal wealth from those who don't own capital, it's not a very convincing argument - at least not as long as the same right isn't granted to everyone equally.

Capitalist redistribution is far more destructive of real wealth than taxation is. From the point of view of everyone except the so-called independently wealthy, there's very little difference between paying 30% of income in taxes and having 60% of productivity taken away and given to shareholders.

If anything government taxation is a much lighter burden. It doesn't demand that anyone work evenings and weekends, and it doesn't inflict the kinds of psychological pressures which corporate working environments are famous for.

The answer would be genuine participatory corporate democracy. So far all we've had are half-democracies where there are limited voting choices for formal government.

But since policy is now decided almost exclusively by consultants and lobbyists, and not by democratic accountability, the antidote is formal democratic accountability for corporations, not just for shareholders but for anyone whose property, lifestyle or working time is affected by corporate decisions.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sat May 17th, 2008 at 07:05:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
So the majority of people, represented by free, general and covertly elections, has no right to decide how the structure of the society shall be, even if the representative institutions are backed by a constitution, which in polls more than 90% agree with?

I don't know what you define as "to have a problem with".  The constitutional court of Germany ruled, that what you suggest would mostly be possible without changing the constitution, if the parliament decides it.
I would not vote for a party suggesting that. And anybody who wants to implement something against the decisions of the parliament, is in my eyes a criminal to an extend, that the parliament and the constitution are to defend even with violance.
But if you get a majority to vote for a party that wants to implement democratic access to corporate governance, then it is so. I accept to live in a democracy.

Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers

by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Sat May 17th, 2008 at 08:08:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Constitutions aren't set in stone and can be - and should be - changed.

In fact progress only happens when they're changed.

As for not voting for a party which suggested that - all you're doing is denying others the rights which you claim for yourself.

This is hardly unusual for conservatives. But even so - let's be clear that this is what you're doing.

If a corporation builds a plant which affects the air quality for miles around it, on what basis should they not be held accountable?

Practical democracy is about what comes through your door - or in this case, through your windows.

What justification is there for arguing against that kind of accountability?

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sat May 17th, 2008 at 08:20:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I claim the right to take part in general elections. From what do you conclude that I deny this to others?

Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers
by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Sat May 17th, 2008 at 08:33:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
With regard to plants affecting the air quality, it is in an issue of some gov branch with representative democratic legitimation. Why do you say they are not held accountable?

Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers
by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Sat May 17th, 2008 at 08:40:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Because if there large concentration of power, there is no representative democratic process. It is bribed and corrupt.
by Francois in Paris on Sat May 17th, 2008 at 10:59:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think Francois' charge is that when you have sufficiently large concentrations of wealth, democracy ceases to function - at least the version of democracy that most people on ET subscribe to.

If I control the press, then I control what information you have access to. Not in the crude sense that I can send a goon squad to prevent you from googling "contras nicaragua" (at least I usually can't) - but in the far more insidious sense that I can prevent you from even knowing that there is something called the contras. In point of fact, I can prevent you from even knowing that there is a country called Nicaragua.

OK, maybe not you, and maybe not with the Contras. You have an internet connection and enough time and interest to use it politically. But even so - even though you are probably among the most politically active and informed 10 % of the population - I will still make a wager: That while you have an easy time recalling five major terrorist attacks against Europeans and Americans in the past ten years, you will be completely unable to recall five civil wars in sub-Saharan Africa from the past ten years (without researching it first). Despite the fact that atrocities take place in sub-Saharan Africa that make - say - Saddam Hussein look like a boy scout in comparison.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sun May 18th, 2008 at 04:45:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Let's see:

Zaire/Congo (could probably count as several, but hey - one)
Angola
Rwanda (with side ordre of genocide)
Algeria (I think it counts as civil war)
Mozambique
Sierra Leone
Cote d'Ivoire
Nigeria (low level, but permanent)

sigh... maybe it would be simpler to list the countries with no civil war there...

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun May 18th, 2008 at 05:05:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Except Algeria is not sub-Saharan...

Does Sudan count?

Somalia?

Eritrea?

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun May 18th, 2008 at 06:03:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
A reasonable definition of sub-Saharan would leave Sudan as simply Saharan - but since wikipedia does not agree with my definition of reasonable - I say Sudan counts. And Somalia too. (Good thing there has not been a civil war in Mauretania the last ten years, as the definitions on Sub-Saharan difers with respect to that particular country.)

I would argue that Eritrea does not count as the Eritrean-Ethiopian civil war ended in 1993, and later violent conflict within Eritrea has not risen to the level of war. The uncivil Eritrean-Ethiopian post-1993 conflict escalated to war, but with both states widely recognised it is not civil war.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Sun May 18th, 2008 at 10:14:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There are plenty of ways to prohibit the press to get in the hand of a few. Even once it is created. Wasn't there once a serious process to divide Microsoft up? You can do this with newscorp, if you think they have to much power.

What if a party or party associates try to get the whole press market. That is similar dangerous and would not be stopped by a wealth tax.

And there is not necessarily of such big wealth. From a stern.de articel of 2007 with an elite researcher:
"Mighty is as well someone like Manfred Schneider, the former Beyer CEO, still on the control board of 6 DAX enterprises. When he says some time ago 'We seriously have to think about reducing the social standards significantly. Why aren't 25 holidays enough instead of the current 30?', then this is not just said like that. It changes the social climate."
Other CEOs like Ackermann can't make the public opinion. But they can put out what is on the public agenda - even with a widely diversified press.

Even with a wealth tax one would need other press protection measures.

Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers

by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Sun May 18th, 2008 at 09:08:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There are ways to prevent excessive wealth from controlling the press. But as in your example with Microsoft, wealth tends to find its way around it.[1]

As Bill Gates famously quibbed when asked why Microsoft managed to kill IBM's technologically far superior OS2 operating system "They had better coders, but we had better lawyers."[2]

It is far easier and less vulnerable to manipulation and subversion to simply make sure that there is no vast concentration of wealth in the first place. Hard to bribe lawyers and legislators when you don't have anything to bribe them with.

As for your example of partisan control of the press, I fail to see how a single party could acquire control of a controlling share of the media without the kind of capital concentration that a steeply progressive wealth tax would render impossible. There is nothing magical about a political party that enables it to buy media without paying for them.

And as to your CEO example, I would argue that the worship of biznizmen as prophets and demi-gods would be markedly less pronounced in a media picture where the press wasn't run by conglomerates that employ more bizniz school graduates than reporters. Besides, a more heterogeneous media picture would itself serve to limit the herd mentality and routine plagiarism that makes it so easy for spin doctors and other blackhat activists to manipulate the press.[3]

- Jake

[1] If I recall correctly, the anti-trust case against Microsoft fizzled largely because the pieces it was broken into were aligned neatly with market niches, which meant that the individual bits could still exercise monopoly power, just over a smaller sphere of electronic commodities.

[2] Actually, I can't find a place where he is cited as saying that, so it may be an urban legend. But it captures M$'s attitude well enough.

[3] In fact "manipulate" is understating things by some orders of magnitude. It is my impression that we have simply ceased to have a functioning press in many parts of the nominally democratic world.

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sun May 18th, 2008 at 04:42:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I thought you were going to make a stronger point about Microsoft and political power.

United States Microsoft antitrust case - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Judge Jackson issued his findings of fact[11] on November 5, 1999, which stated that Microsoft's dominance of the personal computer operating systems market constituted a monopoly, and that Microsoft had taken actions to crush threats to the monopoly, including Apple, Java, Netscape, Lotus Notes, Real Networks, Linux, and others. Then on April 3, 2000, he issued a two-part ruling: his conclusions of law were that Microsoft had committed monopolization, attempted monopolization, and tying in violation of Sections 1 and 2 of the Sherman Act, and his remedy was that Microsoft must be broken into two separate units, one to produce the operating system, and one to produce other software components.

United States Microsoft antitrust case - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The DOJ announced on September 6, 2001 that it was no longer seeking to break up Microsoft and would instead seek a lesser antitrust penalty.

The DoJ won the case and then dropped it as a wet towel. But the drop came after an election changed the power in the white house. I have always assumed Microsoft to be a big donor to the Bush campaign.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Sun May 18th, 2008 at 05:54:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I kinda sorta am trying to make that case - I do think that M$ has far too great a reach for comfort. Their de facto power to use proprietary formats as the basis for international standards should be of great concern to anyone concerned about the ability of users to control their computers. But that is somewhat incidental to the discussion of whether they can skirt the law or not.

I would argue that even the first ruling didn't go far enough. M$ would still have the next best thing to a monopoly with their OS (at the time). Which means that they were for all intents and purposes able to control what the users could do with their computers, because there wasn't (and isn't) any effective enforcement of open software standards. That's too much power in the hands of a private company.

But we are getting rather far afield, methinks.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sun May 18th, 2008 at 06:16:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
M$ is at it again with Office 97 and its backwards-incompatible file formats.

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun May 18th, 2008 at 06:21:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Office 2007

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Sun May 18th, 2008 at 06:23:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Right, obviously. Just goes to show how primitive I think M$ software is :-)

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun May 18th, 2008 at 06:26:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
if whether they can skirt the law or not.
If they can skirt the law, then the original point is turned into a cycle.
If they can skirt the law, they are able to prevent to be taxed in a way, which would prevent them to become as big that they can skirt the law.

So the horse is already bolted, which's door locking we were discussing.

Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers

by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Sun May 18th, 2008 at 06:52:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
As MS is even a stock company it is even unclear to me, how taxing can help. Even if Bill Gates would have to sell shares every year just to pay for a wealth tax, the people who own the shares afterwards would still looking for monopoly like returns.
If Murdoch sells newscorp shares to some institutional investors, which hold as well other stocks, a business friendly press might still be their interest, despite no single person owns billions.

Divestiture is the only thing which could help, in both cases.

Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers

by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Sun May 18th, 2008 at 07:00:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Wealth taxes are, of course, not sufficient. As you point out, there are several transnational conglomerates that would need to be smashed. However, in large part this could be accomplished by simply restricting the flow of capital across state borders.

However, I think you underestimate the impact that a wealth tax would have solely by making sure that even the richest person in society is dependent on the same police, fire service, hospitals and universities as everyone else. If the rich have to live next door to the poor, they have a vested interest in making sure that the poor don't live in a slum.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon May 19th, 2008 at 03:46:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There aren't few of them. Most of them just happen to coincide with (or at least to begin with) a roll-back of the irresponsible neolib policies of the past thirty or forty years.

After all, if your house is burning, you put out the fire before you start repairing the holes in the roof.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Fri May 16th, 2008 at 05:05:08 AM EST
Your diary is eloquent, but I think your worries are not correct.

We've focused explicitly on poverty and inequality, we've said regularly that a society should be judged by how it treats the weakest members, we've insisted when it was not fashionable about public services and the need for universality (and even more for the need for more - or better - public services in disadvantaged areas).

As far as I'm concerned, I think I can have more impact as an 'intellectual' than as a militant on the ground (where? when?) - my perceived credibility in the "Serious" world as a banker with the right diplomas should certainly allow me to bring in heterodox ideas in places that need to hear them.

But maybe it's just wishful thinking.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Fri May 16th, 2008 at 05:47:30 AM EST
Perhaps part of the problem is that the "right" and "left" in the U.S. are defined differently from their counterparts in Europe. I would say that the current Republican party is largely supported by those who have a strongly nationalistic viewpoint, regardless of their economic situation. Plenty of working class Americans, even those with very low paying jobs, are Republicans, and the party seems to attract the less educated and less successful of the white population.

Meanwhile, the Democrats are now the party of the educated (almost all college professors) and the black population. They have not successfully attracted the Latino population and have largely lost the blue-collar population, so the old liberal-minority-labor triad that previously made up the party has collapsed.

So many of the poor in America support the party that reduces taxes on the richest part of society, that opposes satisfactory medical care even for the families of active military service people currently deployed in Iraq, that spends billions on weapon systems that will be pointed at those same (poor--only the poor enlist these days) soldiers, etc.

Here, the argument is not about economic parity that could be achieved by changes to economic policy, but about whether America is strong enough to "obliterate Iran" and thus preserve "freedom" and "the American dream." There is no discussion of socialism, except as something that is unAmerican. Gini factors are irrelevant under this model...

by asdf on Fri May 16th, 2008 at 09:16:59 AM EST
the social left-right divide (abortion, guns, gays, etc...) has been played successfully by the right in the US to get people to vote against their economic interest

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Fri May 16th, 2008 at 10:01:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But the democrats are a liberal party, not a social democratic party. That's the reason they seem never be willing to make compromises on social issues, while they are willing to make compromises just any economic issue.

Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers
by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Fri May 16th, 2008 at 10:27:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Compromise on social issues? Like what? Equal rights for people with the bad taste to be born gay, female, or with the wrong skin colour?
by Egarwaen on Fri May 16th, 2008 at 12:20:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think the social issue which might have the most power for conservatives is abortion. Many European countries have compromises in place for that, like a time limit rule or smthng like that. It would take it off the table for every presidential election. Then first a broad consensus can be build and it can be changed again.
As for gays, there is an argument to prefer heterosexual parents for adoptions, the rest of privileges can easily be given to gays under a different name than merriage.
With respect to people with different skin colour, affirmative action is not equal rights, but unequal rights. What are the republicans really proposing what would not give them (or any American else) equal rights?
You may think that's not enough, but seriously, why are the dems than willing to prostitute themselves when it comes to taxation, or a war for that matter? Does the suffering of poor people in America and elsewhere deserve a lower priority than the other stuff?

Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers
by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Fri May 16th, 2008 at 12:48:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think the social issue which might have the most power for conservatives is abortion. Many European countries have compromises in place for that, like a time limit rule or smthng like that. It would take it off the table for every presidential election. Then first a broad consensus can be build and it can be changed again.

And ponies for all?  It's not on the table, the forced pregnancy folks are willing to make exceptions for rape and incest but that's about it. (And of course de facto for the upper middle class)

With respect to people with different skin colour, affirmative action is not equal rights, but unequal rights.

Yeah, right. I mean it's clear that we've now achieved a non racist society and that all the legacies of American apartheid have long since disappeared.  Judging from your diary I presume you have some sympathy for the old Anatole France quote about the equality of the law and sleeping under bridges, but I guess that only applies to class, not race.  This is one area where the European left could seriously benefit from learning a few lessons from America. And I really, really don't think that US liberals need lessons on race from German conservatives.

by MarekNYC on Fri May 16th, 2008 at 01:30:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The question was about possible compromises. I don't know what exactly the Republicans want or want not, that race is seen as an issue for many Americans to vote against the dems.
But if it is really about affirmative action, and the dems are losing the possibility to help lots of poor people independent of colour, to gain a better live, just because they want some, probably smaller, benefits for coloured people, then it is the US liberals turn to learn.

I have no idea, how you judge from my diary, that I want different laws for people from different classes. It certainly is not the case.

Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers

by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Fri May 16th, 2008 at 02:28:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I have no idea, how you judge from my diary, that I want different laws for people from different classes. It certainly is not the case.

? Higher taxes for the rich, higher benefits for the poor - i.e. differential treatment based on class. My question was why is it ok to have government policies designed to address class inequality, but not the effects of racism.

In any case it is rather dubious to suggest that this would help the dems. On both abortion and affirmative action the dem position tends to be marginally more popular than the republican one. Sure it costs us the racist fundie working and middle class white vote - i.e. we don't do well in the South. However, given that poor Southern whites already vote majority Dem and the middle income ones tend to be more economically conservative than upper middle class northeastern liberals this is not only a recipe for selling out on principles, it's a recipe for trading socially liberal economically centrist suburban seats in Blue states for socially conservative economically centrist ones in Red states. So you end up selling out on core values for absolutely no benefit.

by MarekNYC on Fri May 16th, 2008 at 02:47:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't know the US political landscape that much. It was said that the Republicans win with social issues people to vote against their own economic interest. If on the things I mentioned the dems have the majority opinion on their side, then why haven't they won the past two presidential elections, why can't they make economic proposals which would benefit a large majority. So what other social issues (the first round I was picking up from Egarwaen) are there, which the republicans use against the dems?

On the question of different treatment, the law is the same for the rich and the poor. Affirmative action is usually something which has words like Afroamerican, female or something like that in its wording. I want only laws, which you could as well apply, if you could not distinguish if somebody is coloured or not.
Some people have reduced chances, because their parents were not well educated, because their parents were not well educated, because their parents were not well educated... And no, I don't want laws, you can only apply if you know if the grandfather of someone was an academic or not, despite it has the real world consequence, that somebody whose grandfather was an academic has much better chances to become as well an academic.
If the 'racism' is a racism of today, e.g. if a judge gives a too high punishment to a coloured person, then a law of truly equal rights will make this illegal. But that is probably not, what republicans are fighting. Mistreatment of ancients is generally not corrected. 99% of Europeans have been something similar like slaves, too, and still we don't disfavour people with of/de/von/van in their names.

Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers

by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Fri May 16th, 2008 at 03:19:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You're being disingenuous here. Please point me to a study that says that people of serf origin have a more difficult time getting jobs, loans, housing than others with the same qualifications. Please show me the laws barring people of serf origin from voting enforced into the sixties.

Or are you perhaps proposing to do things German style and confiscate the property of the majority of whites? (The old agrarian elite was very disproportionately located in the ex DDR and Ostgebiete)  That's a bit more radical than affirmative action...

You're saying that the US left should adopt a neoliberal approach to racial inequality. Personally, I think it's high time the European left had the courage and honesty to reject neoliberalism in that realm.

by MarekNYC on Fri May 16th, 2008 at 03:36:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What about this.
"[...] The recent comparison of prime school students shows, that kids of workers need much better scores to get a recomendation for high school. [...]"
Shouldn't they than get a bonus in their later live, now that it is known they were mistreated as children?  

or

this:
The biggest chunk of people, who made it to the top, comes from the upper quantile. As members of the elevated bourgoisie, they have the properties, which are decisive at same qualification. [...]
He found that the bourgoisie as well chooses different names. Chantal, Jacqueline oder Kevin are taboo. They sound like welfare and ghetto."
Is it your fault, if your parents give you the wrong name? Or do you really think people called Kevin are less capable of leading an enterprise than people with name Peter? And don't underestimate that effect, it is real.
And unlike the coloured American, the Kevin might not even notice, that his name dooms him.
There are no laws to prevent Kevins from becoming bosses. But there are social stigmas, which sometimes have as big effects.

You think we live in a meritocracy, where always those are the winners who are the best for a job? Rediculous. And why should they, intelligence is probably about half genetically.

And should we in Germany have a special ossi treatment? After they were not allowed to give any meaningfull vote until recently. And after they have collectivly hardly a chance to have learned our elitists culture?
I had at least twice here craftsmen, where the was a Badenian and an ossi. The ossi was doing the dirty work in the basement and the Badenia was doing the less dirty work in the flat.

Besides being ideological against such things as affirmative action, I'm afraid, that the explicit use and definition (what the hell is a coloured person, am I coloured, too, after sunburn?, maybe without a commitee saying who gets the benefits and who not, people wouldn't know anymore who to discriminate) of special treatment gives afterwards justification for social behaviour disfavouring those the lawmakers wanted to help in the first place.

However, I think redstar has a good point, when asserting, that race in the US covers so much other things, and with people still living who were victims of racial discrimination, one can of course think about helping them.

Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers

by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Fri May 16th, 2008 at 05:09:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
you're moving the goalposts. You were comparing serf ancestry with slave ancestry, now you're comparing parental class. If you're going to argue this show me a study which says that serf origin matters after correcting for immediate class background. (And yes, if you look at AP and other 'gifted' type programs within schools, i.e. the closest thing the American system has to what the study you cite is looking at, then both class and race play a role.)  As far as compensating the Ossis... hmmmh, so perhaps what we should do is put a special 5% income tax on all whites, create special tax breaks for black businesses, etc.

There are good reasons for government intervention to redress class inequality - which you argue for and I agree with. Yet not only do you reject it with respect to race, you insist on making ludicrous arguments that dismiss the very notion that it is a serious problem.  And it is one not just in the US, but also in Germany. Suggesting that the US ignore it the way the Germans do (except of course when the CDU/CSU is outright inciting   it) is really not appealing to US liberals.  The idea is to copy the good sides of the European system, not the bad ones.

what the hell is a coloured person, am I coloured, too, after sunburn?, maybe without a commitee saying who gets the benefits and who not, people wouldn't know anymore who to discriminate

are you really this clueless or are you deliberately seeking to incite? It's the kind of stuff you'd expect to find on a freeper thread.

by MarekNYC on Fri May 16th, 2008 at 05:41:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Jesus, man.  Calm down.  I know where you're coming from but that last bit really was uncalled for.  Euro-ETers don't 'get', not having lived it, the extensive, entrenched, racism in the US.  

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Fri May 16th, 2008 at 05:54:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh, I don't know about that. Surprising what you'll glean from the intertubes and such things. However, if we mention it the USians tend somewhat towards the defensive. US racism and most European racism is not the same thing at all, except very superficially. Well, anti-Latino racism, in some areas where they're new arrivals, might be equivalent to European anti-immigrant racism. The racism against African Americans is something else entirely.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri May 16th, 2008 at 06:01:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That depends, I suspect, on which country you are in. I have a sneaking suspicion that in some major colonial powers (none named, none forgotten) you might find a strain of racism that is uncomfortably similar to the one you have in the US.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Fri May 16th, 2008 at 06:16:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What, against people who predated their arrival in the country and where used as slaves? No, not really, that I can think of.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri May 16th, 2008 at 06:21:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, just the descendants of people they sold as slaves in other countries at the time those areas belonged to them.
by MarekNYC on Fri May 16th, 2008 at 06:38:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think you can make the case that much of Europe is seriously in denial about much of the 19th century. And I cannot help but think that the attitudes of - say - France towards people descended from the Maghreb region (Algeria, Morocco plus the loose change) has more than a whiff of the American attitude towards blacks.

I am not claiming that France is the only country to have such problems (but it happens to be an example I know of), nor that the problems are nearly as virulent as they are across the Pond. But I think that a case can be made that they exist.

Of course, in general your point still stands: European countries generally have a much more complex history of interaction with foreign ethnic groups, which of course means that the history of European racism is rather more complicated than the American ditto.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sat May 17th, 2008 at 03:54:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
At what point do they stop being new arrivals?  The primary non-white group in Germany arrived between the late fifties and late seventies.  Sure, German right wing politicians like to call people born and raised in Germany 'immigrants' but let's get real here, it isn't about immigration levels, which aren't that high in Germany, but about race. A country where large chunks are no go areas for non-whites (I mean as bad as parts of the US are, you do not have companies forced to offer their non-white employees permanent security escorts for their commutes).  
by MarekNYC on Fri May 16th, 2008 at 06:18:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'd have said third or fourth generation, normally.

I'm not excusing or minimising European racism: I'm saying that viewing it through the same lens as US anti-black racism is inappropriate and unhelpful.

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri May 16th, 2008 at 06:22:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
When they came, they were no immigrants at all. The original rules how long somebody was allowed to stay were very strict and the people who came obviously accepted the rules, fully knowing them. Nobody was forced to come.

In the meantime many people are here and can stay here and can get the citizenship and often don't want it, when they have to give up their old citizenship for that.

Currently about 20% of the population has "migration background". But in most cities more than 40% of poeple under 40 have. The oldest living generation has nearly none. So what's your problem?

Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers

by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Fri May 16th, 2008 at 06:28:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I guess he is talking about national befreite Tonen, for example.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sun May 18th, 2008 at 09:59:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Funny typo. Should be national befreite Zonen.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sun May 18th, 2008 at 10:07:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There are (small) no-go areas in Ireland. Consisting entirely of Irish whites: gods forbid that any non-whites would go near them.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri May 16th, 2008 at 06:44:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Any discussion of racism in the US eventually winds up talking about slavery and -- believe me -- that is a huge elephant standing in the US living room.  We really don't want to talk about it, we know any discussion of racism ends up there sooner or later, so we deal with it in a mature manner: we ignore it until somebody else brings it up and then we get defensive/mad at them.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Fri May 16th, 2008 at 06:42:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Um, have you spent much time in Europe?  No shortage of racism there. And I really don't have much patience for someone who apparently thinks that the situation of the descendants of serfs in Europe is comparable to that of non-whites, nor that the reason for racist behaviour is all those pesky people pointing out its existence, or the 'what's a coloured person anyways, just a white with sunburn' crack. Especially when they declare themselves adherents to a political movement which has spent the past decade and a half running race baiting campaigns (e.g. opposing giving non-white Germans citizenship).
by MarekNYC on Fri May 16th, 2008 at 06:08:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
One can't oppose to give non-white Germans citizenship, because if they are Germans they have citizenship. That's the definition of German.

Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers
by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Fri May 16th, 2008 at 06:16:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Where are the PNing police when you need them?

Are you really excusing that appalling piece of racism that was(?) German citizenship policy?

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri May 16th, 2008 at 06:17:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't know what is PNing police.

And yes, I fully excuse what I know about the German citizenship policy as non racistic.

Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers

by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Fri May 16th, 2008 at 06:22:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
German citizenship policy was basically that it didn't matter whether you were born in Germany or spoke German, the criterion for citizenship was being born to German parents. Are you unfamiliar with the debate around ius solis and ius sanguinis, or the distinction between civic and ethnic nationality?

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri May 16th, 2008 at 06:26:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Sure I know that. And I don't see anything racistic in the ius sanguinis. For somebody born in Germany it was always possible to get the citizenship when he was adult and still living in Germany.
German citizenship is no race, but a legal status. Having specific rights for citizens over non-citizens is nothing unusual. Otherwiese you could vote in the German Bundestags election, because Germans living in Britain can vote for the Bundestag.

Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers
by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Fri May 16th, 2008 at 06:35:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It's not the positive granting of citizenship to descendants of germans but the denial of citizenship to people born in Germany who speak German but happen not to be descended from ur-Germans that was a problem and has partly been solved.

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri May 16th, 2008 at 06:44:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You make it too easy. The Völkisch basis of citizenship is about race in the end. That someone can get the citizenship only when grown up is one difference. But you forget about the Spätaussiedler, people who got automatic citizenship upon arrival based on German ancestors, even if they never lived in Germany and got neither the language nor the culture from parents. The same people could also get double citizenship in some cases.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sun May 18th, 2008 at 10:06:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
PN is an abbreviation of a Finnish expression which literally means having carnal knowledge of punctuation symbols. We use it on ET to mean hairsplitting or nitpicking.

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri May 16th, 2008 at 06:58:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, that makes perfect sense.  If you don't take the rules of logic into account.

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.
by poemless on Fri May 16th, 2008 at 06:31:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
...have you spent much time in Europe?  No shortage of racism there.

In order: no and I know it, too.  

I don't, and didn't, object to the message.  I do, and did, think the rhetoric carrying that message jumped the shark.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Fri May 16th, 2008 at 06:28:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I have a really hard time believing Germany has no racism.  I have a really hard time believing Germany doesn't "get" racism.  

Unless we are talking about widescale amnesia experienced as a collective defense mechanism.  

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.

by poemless on Fri May 16th, 2008 at 06:24:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
As I understand it, the German right don't admit that the grand-children of Turkish immigrants whose parents never left Germany and speak only German count as German. Therefore they can't be any racism against Germans - they're Turkish immigrants. See?
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri May 16th, 2008 at 06:26:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
All those third generation people can get citizenship if they want. But most don't want.

Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers
by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Fri May 16th, 2008 at 06:29:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Wasn't the law changed recently?
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri May 16th, 2008 at 06:33:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The law was changed, so that everybody born in Germany automatic has citizenship by birth.

Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers
by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Fri May 16th, 2008 at 06:37:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
By the left, opposed by parties you cleave to? Uh-huh.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri May 16th, 2008 at 06:40:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The CDU/CSU opposed successfully against double citizenship.
People who were born in Germany have the citizenship, but if they have another citizenship, too, they have to give one away, when they become 18. And indeed I think that at least two EU citizenships are indeed problematic.

Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers
by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Fri May 16th, 2008 at 06:52:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Problematic in what way?

Don't you think people can have multiple or mixed identities, as well as loyalties and residence?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sun May 18th, 2008 at 08:52:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Because they can vote in two parliaments in two countries, which means double influence on the EU council.

Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers
by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Sun May 18th, 2008 at 09:13:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think that given the small number of people who would both apply for dual citizenship and vote in both countries makes it rather a small price to pay, especially when compered with how much the two passports count for the applicant personally. Also, would it become a problem, it could be regulated.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sun May 18th, 2008 at 09:27:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There is a rather simpler solution: Strangle the Council and dump it in a shallow, unmarked grave. I wouldn't miss it.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sun May 18th, 2008 at 04:18:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You know, I'm pretty relaxed about that, given the indirect nature of council representation.

Is there an official Latin name for the rhetorical device of grasping at straws?

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Sun May 18th, 2008 at 04:21:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, then what about
  • military service, not that a good excuse to be not available, because serving in another country
  • and yes split, or better unsplit, loyalities  - dodo asked: "Don't you think people can have multiple or mixed identities, as well as loyalties and residence?" Yes, people can have. But the relevant question is, is that the typical case. I doubt that.

This other problems I don't see inside the EU, where the solution I would prefer would be to make a EU citizenship and everybody votes, where he lives, or where he lived last before leaving the EU. But with non-EU citizens this a real problem.

Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers
by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Sun May 18th, 2008 at 04:46:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, military service is a freaky practice anyway, so I suggest just abolishing it, and the more people with split loyalty the better. Nationalism is not a good thing.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Sun May 18th, 2008 at 05:17:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
But then please in the right order. First getting rid of military service and second allow for multiple citizenships.

And it seems I wasn't clear enough. I don't think that  most Turks born in Germany have rally a split loyality. At least not one, where Germany could get a similar priority for them as Turkey.

Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers

by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Sun May 18th, 2008 at 05:32:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Can you clarify your second paragraph? It seems like you might be  saying that  Germans of Turkish descent have a primary allegience to Turkey? Is that what you mean?
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Sun May 18th, 2008 at 05:38:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm sure there are sociological surveys of the German-born Turks to answer that question without having to resort to what anyone thinks.

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun May 18th, 2008 at 05:38:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If you find them, fine.
I have searched and found no representative surveys with the words 'Umfrage  Loyalität Deutschtürken'.
But I found this"
"[...] Also Bilkay Öney, the speaker for migrational issues of the greens in the Berlin (state) parliamen, found Erdogans speach in the Köln-Arena pretty bad. He can't tell one day in the German media [mostly read by Germans, Martin] ask the Turks for more integration, and the next day [in front of only Turks or people with Turkish ancients, Martin] warn the Turks of too much alignment. That makes him uncredible. She estimates, that the speach in front of 16000 Turks [note, Turks is the word in the text, despite I'm sure there were quite some people without Turkish citizenship] mostly was for the partisans of his conservative AK party. This party has many partisans among Deutsch-Türken [don't know how to translate best, Martin]. Öney estimates, that more than one half are positioned nationalistic-conservative. They want to conserve their values, because they are afraid to lose their identity far from home."

There is a Turk from Turkey, who just came for phd, in the institute I work. I have never met a Turk less nationalistic than him. I have the impression, that living in Germany may make Turks more nationalistic instead of less.

Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers

by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Sun May 18th, 2008 at 06:20:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Military service, just like taxation, is already regulated, usually bilaterally. The possibility of double voting is also limited when a country allows only residents to vote (the rule I would prefer universally, though Migeru will disagree strongly). Double voting may still be special among these issues inasmuch as elections aren't held at the same time in different countries, so one could in theory always move to the one that is just voting. But I have no problem with that. After all, people who move from one country to another and naturalize there also vote in two countries.

But the relevant question is, is that the typical case.

Relevant to what, and typical in what sense?

I have some migration experience, and I'd say mixed loyalties are almost universal - but there is a wide scale of the relative weights.

But with non-EU citizens this a real problem.

Why do you consider this a significant problem? Especially when compared to the problem for those non-EU citizens, whom you'd bar from influencing decisions affecting their lives (in addition to several little bureaucratic obstacles to conducting their lives)?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sun May 18th, 2008 at 05:32:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Actually they do want to, and are getting it courtesy of a law pushed through by the left in the late nineties. What I was referring to is that the CDU and CSU - political parties you apparently like, vehemently opposed the change. Just a few months ago a leading CDU politician based his campaign against 'immigrant violence', making no distinction between immigrants and those born and raised in Germany. Also over the past decade CSU politicians have argued that 'immigrants' born and raised in Germany should be deported to their 'home country' if they commit crimes.  
by MarekNYC on Fri May 16th, 2008 at 06:36:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't have to agree with everything the parties I support do, have I?

Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers
by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Fri May 16th, 2008 at 07:00:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Most?

I have no figures broken down by generation, but by the end of 2006, there were some 720,000 Turkish citizens naturalized post-1990, and 1.74 million who were not - and methinks the first group contains a good deal of the multiple-generation Turks.

Also, many with dual identities (though that probably applies less to the third generation) would rather wait for dual citizenship to become law at last than having to choose.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sun May 18th, 2008 at 09:48:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But aristocracy is about parential class, and so is slavery. For sure former aristicrats still do live statistcally different than others. There is no need for a study, for common knowledge.

There is no difference in the treatment of eastern Germans by law. The corresponding measures to what was done here would be to give economic weak states subsidies. There were lots of former east Germans going to the West and there were as well west Germans going to the east. I have no clue why this should be seen as any specific treatment for east German people.

Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers

by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Fri May 16th, 2008 at 06:56:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, it is definitely special treatment for East Germany residents that was in part motivated by sentiments towards East German people. At the individual level, these subsidies are just as much imprecise as affirmastive action: they benefit rich West Germans re-settling in East Germany, and failed to give a head start for East Germans who moved to finds jobs in West Germany, who quite probably got lower wages for similar jobs (especially if dialect was recognisable) and less recognition with their diplomas.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sun May 18th, 2008 at 08:50:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That's a side effect of bringing up the region. Why aren't there ghetto uplift programms, or double teacher shifts in problem quarter schools instead of affirmative action? That would as well help more coloured people than others, but it wouldn't be, 'you are treated different because your skin is dark'

Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers
by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Sun May 18th, 2008 at 09:16:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That's a side effect of bringing up the region.

And a side effect of affirmative action is that some blacks benefit who aven't been discriminateed against and come from well-off families, and some people of mixed descent who don't qualify as "blacks" but have suffered racial discrimination as such don't.

Why aren't there ghetto uplift programms

Because socialism didn't get as far as the fight against racism. Note though that the New Deal and the post-WWII programmes in the US also worked to lift a lot of people out of the non-black, immigrant ghettos in East Coast major cities.

it wouldn't be, 'you are treated different because your skin is dark'

Now, are you claiming that there is no trend of US blacks being treated different because of the colour of their skin, only because of their ghetto origins?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sun May 18th, 2008 at 09:32:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If you're going to argue this show me a study which says that serf origin matters after correcting for immediate class background.

I think I could dig up some studies on that from Hungary. No serf just peasant, and no study but anecdote, but I witnessed discirminative comments towards a classmate (he was a trouble kid, at another time he played xenophobic with me) based on being a farmboy at my West German school.

However, I definitely wouldn't judge serf origin comparable in seriousness with slave origin.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sun May 18th, 2008 at 10:17:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Besides being ideological against such things as affirmative action, I'm afraid, that the explicit use and definition (what the hell is a coloured person, am I coloured, too, after sunburn?, maybe without a commitee saying who gets the benefits and who not, people wouldn't know anymore who to discriminate) of special treatment gives afterwards justification for social behaviour disfavouring those the lawmakers wanted to help in the first place.
I'm going to put that down to ignorance as opposed to malice and won't troll-rate it this time around.

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri May 16th, 2008 at 07:00:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm afraid, that the explicit use and definition (what the hell is a coloured person, am I coloured, too, after sunburn?,

having observed the complex and arcane genetic requirements to be classified 'hawaiian', (6 generations born and raised), i think i know what Martin meant.

it was phrased a bit funny...

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sat May 17th, 2008 at 12:27:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I wager that Martin hasn't really spent much time discussing politics with people who self-identify as "people of colour".

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat May 17th, 2008 at 12:55:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Point of order - the US really does have a racism problem. And, while at root I agree with you that class is a much more important market for treatment differentiation at the hands of the state than race in general, there are egregious cases where past racism must be remedied, and the US is one such case.

People think slavery ended in 1865. It didn't. Segregation was one thing, which turned whole parts of the US, and not just in the South, into a police state if you happened to be black well into the 1960's. But laws beyond segregation were also put into place, making the station of many blacks in the US de facto slavery:

In the past decade, several influential studies of this period have revealed the relationship between emancipation, the 13th Amendment, and the convict lease program (Lichtenstein, 1996a; Mancini, 1996; Davis, 1999). Built into the 13th Amendment was state authorization to use prison labor as a bridge between slavery and paid work. Slavery was abolished "except as a punishment for crime." This stipulation provided the intellectual and legal mechanisms to enable the state to use "unfree" labor by leasing prisoners to local businesses and corporations desperate to rebuild the South's infrastructure. During this period, white "Redeemers" -- white planters, small farmers, and political leaders -- set out to rebuild the pre-emancipation racial order by enacting laws that restricted black access to political representation and by creating Black Codes that, among other things, increased the penalties for crimes such as vagrancy, loitering, and public drunkenness (Davis, 2000). As African Americans continued the process of building schools, churches, and social organizations, and vigorously fought for political participation, a broad coalition of Redeemers used informal and state-sponsored forms of violence and repression to roll back the gains made during Reconstruction. Thus, mass imprisonment was employed as a means of coercing resistant freed slaves into becoming wage laborers. Prison populations soared during this period, enabling the state to play a critical role in mediating the brutal terms of negotiation between capitalism and the spectrum of unfree labor. The transition from slave-based agriculture to industrial economies thrust ex-slaves and "unskilled" laborers into new labor arrangements that left them vulnerable to depressed, resistant white workers or pushed them outside the labor market completely.

The transfer of power to the state signaled by the 13th Amendment profoundly reshaped the political landscape along with emancipation. By empowering the state to regulate relationships between private individuals, the state also gained the ability to determine the contours of freedom and unfreedom. The expansion of state jurisdiction thus had the dual effect of establishing legal rights for African Americans while paving the way for new, state-maintained structures of racism. Convict labor became increasingly racialized: it was assumed that blacks were more suitable for hard physical labor on Southern prison farms and on corporate railroad and construction company projects (Lichtenstein, 1996b). Contrary to popular representations of chain gang labor, not only black men, but also black women were forced to work on the lines and on hard labor projects, revealing how the slave order was being mirrored in the emerging punishment system. This mimicking of the slave system structure in the post-emancipation prison system, particularly in the South, suggested a belief that the performance of antebellum culture could bring the slave system back to life (Jackson, 1999). In Northern prisons, which had historically been structured around industrial rather than agricultural labor, racially based divisions were sharpened after emancipation as well. African Americans were criminalized for committing Black Code-type crimes and often were subject to tougher sentences than those imposed upon whites convicted of similar crimes (Du Bois, 1935).

This persisted well into the 1950's in large sections of the US and, in some places, well after that.

No, the US still has a race problem to remedy it, and it colors (no pun intended) treatments of class at every stage of the game. Arguably, race is precisely why Americans are so bad at class consciousness.

The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill

by r------ on Fri May 16th, 2008 at 03:44:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Suggested reading for Martin: WHITE PRIVILEGE SHAPES THE U.S. by Robert Jensen.
Here's what white privilege sounds like:

I am sitting in my University of Texas office, talking to a very bright and very conservative white student about affirmative action in college admissions, which he opposes and I support.

The student says he wants a level playing field with no unearned advantages for anyone. I ask him whether he thinks that in the United States being white has advantages. Have either of us, I ask, ever benefited from being white in a world run mostly by white people? Yes, he concedes, there is something real and tangible we could call white privilege.

So, if we live in a world of white privilege--unearned white privilege--how does that affect your notion of a level playing field? I ask.

He paused for a moment and said, "That really doesn't matter."

That statement, I suggested to him, reveals the ultimate white privilege: the privilege to acknowledge you have unearned privilege but ignore what it means.



When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri May 16th, 2008 at 07:06:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I have read the piece. He speaks about himself, and what shaped his views. I have different a experience. I don't know if I can explain it to you, but I will try.

About the first twenty years of my life I spend in the Emsland. I like to compare it to the Shire, where Hobbits live, because it is about the unimportant and 'boring' place one can find in western Germany. It is in general very catholic and in the 3000 people village, where I lived, were nearly no foreigners. My parents of course were in some sense as well foreigner coming from Rheinland-Pfalz. As there is so many space and illicit work/neighbourly help is so common the houses the typical Emsländer lives in are so big, that the major of cologne once said when he came to the Emsland, that in Cologne only millionaires live like the normal ones in the Emsland.
Despite the general lack of foreigners, my first best friend was a foreigner, a real foreigner. His last name Haouati was always great fun, when somebody tried to pronounce it for the first time. The reason why we were best friends had a lot to do with football. Actually I can remember much what else I have done as a small child than playing football. We were not only playing one against one in our normal free time, but were as well going to the local football club, where we played every second year together as he was a bit older. I played defense, Armin was striker, a very good one and often the only hope for our very grotty team.
His father was a simple worker. Armin lived with his 4 siblings in a small flat with only 2 children rooms for the five kids. When we reached primary school age, it was usual to invite all boys of our 18 children class. A tradition which all but one followed. He invited only me to his birthday. In the summer holidays, he was always going home to Tunesia. Shortly after we had learned to write, I got my first holiday card in my life, he wrote only 'Martin, you are a good friend'.
His parents planned to go home, when Armins father would reach retirement age. I have the strong impression, that they somehow assumed their children would like to go to Tunesia, too. Armin was the oldest, a younger brother had the name Ali, a sister Bashra, when I met him first, later there was born a sister Maura. His mother wore a headscarve, Armin was following the rules of Ramadan, at home they spoke Arabian.
Sometimes it is difficult to judge oneself, so I'm not doing that. In all the years, I went together with him to school, I was playing football in a club and our free time with him, I can't remember to have seen any sign of racism or any kind of discrimination, because of him being a muslim. But I know, that on his birthday he would have invited all the boys of our class, if it were not for the reason, that his his father earned so little money.
Already after we were going on different high schools, another sister was born. The parents gave her the name Ines. So it seems they have decided to stay for ever. When Armin turned 18, he applied to German citizenship, made his military service and studied economy.

Later when I was in high school, I had a very unusual teacher of the name Kristof Tondera. He had a very strong accent and was talking Polish with his kids. All except one year in high school he was my physics teacher, which is, as you may know, the subject which I have studied afterwards.
He was as well most of the time thye physics teacher of my younger brother, who as well studies physics. My brother once told me, that a pupil said something which implied Mr. Tondera to be a Pole. He said he is no Pole. He is a German. The constitution says, a German is somebody who has a German passport.
Up to that point I had never really thought about citizenship, but diffusely I had the impression, of German being a race, as often in the media there is spoken about 'Deutschtürke' or something like that, which implies, that somebody is still a Turk, even once he has taken the German citizenship and has given up on his Turkish citizenship. But Mr. Tondera, one of my favourite teachers, said, he is a German. Not because he was born in Germany, or because he could speak German that greatly (he really has a strong accent), but finally, because he decided to become one, and was accepted. I think from that day on, I began to think of being German as of a clubmembership, not as a race or something like that and always get angry, if in the media there is said somebody was a 'Deutschtürke', even if his ancestry as Turk was completely irrelevant, as it is in most of the times, it is mentioned.

If I could have wished something for Armin, it would have certainly not been, that he would be more white. I never had the feeling that this makes any difference. I would have wished him, a birthday party with all children like the one had it, who were living in the big houses.
When thinking about my physics teacher (you may say, he is not coloured, but speaking with a Polish accent is certainly in Germany not so far apart from being, well, different in an important aspect), the one who has probably done a big part for that I'm going the way of my live, as I do, I can't think at the same time of a disadvantaged person and of the role model, he indeed is.

Some were talking about the question if there is racism in Europe/Germany. There is. But to lump all those together in a group who are somehow different, labelling them as disadvantaged and creating a compensation, which then is statistically provided to them, in no correlation to the question whom of them really got big disadvateges and who not, is in my opinion a form of that collectivist thinking, which creates the disadvantages in the first place. It is judging people by their skin colour, by their ancients, not by what they do, what they achieve, what is their desire. The playing field is not levelled. So is not for the Kevins or the Jaquelines in Germany, so is not for those who can't speak the elitists slang, despite doing all the things superior which are officially required of them to be part of the uberwinners gang. But the field bumpy, not simply high for those who are white and low for the others.
If some ETers want to call me racist for insisting on looking on the full person, not labelling people in a box. So be it.

Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers

by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Fri May 16th, 2008 at 09:20:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
All I have to say to that is that the question of discrimination is not answered by asking you, a member of the majority, whether your had perceived that your teacher or your neighbour had been discriminated against, but asking them.
I can't think at the same time of a disadvantaged person and of the role model
Why not?

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat May 17th, 2008 at 05:52:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Wow, if that's all you have to say, I may give a short form for others

  • if my fried was ever victim of racism, he was victim of poverty multiple times as much.
  • I'm pretty sure the children talking about my teacher as Pole, knew that he had the German citizenship. Being judged on his accent, was discrimination. And he did not want that.

Racism is not biological build into humans. Xenophobia is to some degree, but it is fear of the unknown. Under which aspects others are others, is cultural, not biological.
Jensen seem to assume it is impossible that white people treat black people as other white people. It is not.

Maybe I should ask others, where I have the impression they are not discriminated, maybe they can name some occasions, where they were discriminated.
But what exactly is the problem? We are what we are mostly either by genome or by environment interacting with the phenotype.
Discrimination doesn't justify affirmative action unless it is that pronounced that it becomes dominant over other e.g. genetic factors. Whatever they will tell me, if I can't see any discrimination on people who I well know, than this discrimination will not be pronounced enough to trump other factors, the least socio-economic background, which in contrast to what Marek said, is not countered with affirmative action (that would be e.g. giving some of my commillitons better marks for the same diploma thesis than I get, because they have working class parents, or give them some extra lessons or whatsoever different treatment). Socio-economic background I can watch every week on meetings where my mostly working class commilitons behave in an attitude untypical for the upper class.

Statistical Italians in Germany have nearly as bad chances in our school system as Turks, and Spaniards nearly as good chances as native Germans. So anti-Italian racism trumps the effects of ghettoisation, which affect the more numerous Italians compared with the less numerous Spaniards?

Racism in Germany is strongly concentrated on regions and in milieus, and as our minorities are ususally not coloured, it is often an accentism.
With all I know up to know, I can guarantee you, that if coloured, but accent free, Ines is going the way of her brother and studies, she will face less mutual exclusion than a white Jaqueline - despite the indignities a Gerald Asamoah has to face in some stadiums, despite burning asylum homes in Solingen or Rostock, and despite Mügeln.


Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers

by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Sat May 17th, 2008 at 08:03:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]


Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.
by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Fri May 16th, 2008 at 09:58:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Phone rings

Geoff Gerbers wife: "Don't answer it."

"I beg your pardon."

"Don't answer it."

"And may I ask why?"

"--it's a wrong number."

"Well then by all means let's not answer it.  Heh heh.  But I think I should ask you this Althea, uh, how do you know it's a wrong number?"

"It has a different sound.  Wrong numbers sound more neurotic because the circuits are confused--"

"I see."

"--and it just upsets it if you answer it."

"Uh huh, it's strange but, it sounds like a right number to me."

"No, you're wrong."

"You're nuts!"  Picks up phone.  "Hello?"

"Geoff Gerber?"

"Yes."

"Move out, nigger."

Puts phone down.

"It was a wrong number..."

"They've been calling all day."



Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Fri May 16th, 2008 at 10:10:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Can I be a salon socialist and still be poor?

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.
by poemless on Fri May 16th, 2008 at 10:54:05 AM EST
Why not, I'm doing my best.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri May 16th, 2008 at 11:51:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Me too, me too...


"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.
by poemless on Fri May 16th, 2008 at 12:16:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thing is, I haven't got a living-room, let alone a freaking salon.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri May 16th, 2008 at 12:23:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... indeed, the poor intellectuals whose repartee attracted people to salons in, for example, the pre-French Revolution salons were under the patronage of the wealthier owner of the salon.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Fri May 16th, 2008 at 02:23:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It's ok.  I only have a studio (which sounds salon-ish...).

Besides, I wouldn't be a very good socialist if I were rolling in cash.  In fact, you might say I am a socialist precisely because I am not rolling in cash.  Redistribution of wealth and all that.

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.

by poemless on Fri May 16th, 2008 at 02:30:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
My own provocation.
Few here will be surprised that I agree with you in the main.
I could pick nits, but your central implication is spot on- we are, by any reasonable world standard, largely pampered wealthy dilettantes who have increasingly limited experience with the real world, (each hour on the net is an hour lost to real-world experience) and damned near no experience with poverty or real hardship.
 "empathy" is not our middle name.
I speak for myself when I say that I fast every now and again just so I remember what it feels like to the rest of the world we rarely acknowledge. Actually, hunger sucks.
Now, having said all that, a flock of square-eyed vultures will descend on my soon-to-be carcass, cell phones in hand to gouge out my tounge. ;-)
Consider this, however.
There is a lot of evidence that real change, even revolutions come from us pampered lotus-eaters,---those of us who have the time, education and somehow the inclination to ask hard questions.
Sure, word-play, head-play is just that-play. But it can change.
One day some 1/3 in a National Guard uniform lobs a tear gas grenade into your room, or the governor's personal guard drags you into an alley and kicks your guts about ten times-----and the eyes are opened, and the word play can become real tools.
ET is a nursery, to my way of thinking, in which there is a lot of talent growing, that may one day bloom.
I posted this photo several months ago. Know how many comments it got?
One.
Why? Heard hearts? I will never know.
Perhaps not so much heard hearts --what's there to say?


Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.
by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Fri May 16th, 2008 at 01:36:23 PM EST
Hey, that's by your house, isn't it?

The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill
by r------ on Fri May 16th, 2008 at 01:45:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, it is. The bridge at Quai de la Rapee.
The guy was in the bag.
The cops would not tell me the cause of death, or even his name, but they let slip he was a schizophrenic with a mental age of perhaps ten.

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.
by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Sat May 17th, 2008 at 09:06:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
As I understand it, voluntary hunger is completely different to the real thing, in the same way that my privations in my younger life - when my parents always had the space and the money to put a roof over my head and feed me if I really became unstuck - are completely different to real desperation and real deprivation. In the end of the day, I was choosing to cut corners on the grocery shopping: I could always have got on the bus and gone to their house for dinner.  Not the same as really being poor or hungry. Choosing to skip a couple of meals is a luxury, not an act of solidarity with anyone.

In any case, homelessness - in the sense of living on the street -  and poverty are not the same thing. I'm not even sure they're all that correlated, at least in moderately rich European countries.

Why? Hard hearts? I will never know.

That's my cousin in that picture. I played with her as a child. She was sad even then.

Useful talking follows experience, the more the better. Talking that precedes input is known as bullshit.

...

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri May 16th, 2008 at 03:41:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Get some sleep, colman.
Ivonne has a box for Christopher.
If you want it, drop a note with your address.

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.
by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Sat May 17th, 2008 at 11:07:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Do I have to tell you two to stop it again?

That's a rather rude way to offer a gift, if I may say so.

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat May 17th, 2008 at 11:50:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In any case, homelessness - in the sense of living on the street -  and poverty are not the same thing. I'm not even sure they're all that correlated, at least in moderately rich European countries.

Hm, that sounds like blaming the homeless for their situation along the "they're just too lazy to work and like to get drunk" line, but I can't believe that's what you thought of. So, what were you thinking of?

Myself, I think there is very much a correlation even (or especially? In poor countries there are shantytowns) in richer countries, at least the bums I remember were typically older, not the young runaways.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sun May 18th, 2008 at 07:29:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Hm, that sounds like blaming the homeless for their situation along the "they're just too lazy to work and like to get drunk" line, but I can't believe that's what you thought of. So, what were you thinking of?

There is some of that at some level, though I'd put it rather as (in some cases) their not being willing or able to do what it takes to live  a normal life. You could call them all mentally ill, but I suspect some of the homeless would take issue with that.

I'm thinking more of the facilities and resources made available for dealing with the issues underlying the homelessness, which range from mental illnesses to addictions and history of abuse and other good things. Coming from an impoverished background probably doesn't help - it seldom does - but it's not causative.

Put it this way: as far as I understand it, nobody needs to sleep on the street in Ireland - there is sufficient help available to get a roof over your head and a little income if you're capable of getting it and want it. Hell,  there's no need for my cousin to be homeless - she has a father and extended family  who's taken her home several times only for her to disappear again when her physical health improves. She's an adult, she isn't technically ill with anything sufficient to commit her against her will, so what are you going to do? If money could solve the problem it would be found. It can't. She needed intervention twenty years ago, when it wasn't available and her immediate family conditions precluded it anyway.

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Sun May 18th, 2008 at 11:16:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Can someone who has lived in privilege, or at least in decent comfort, all of his/her life (materially, socially, spiritually), not known privation, never been part of the downtrodden, legitimately have a left-wing discourse?

And admitting s/he can, what's the best way to do so?

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sat May 17th, 2008 at 06:20:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, because a left-wing discourse is about solidarity not about I want more for me and those like me.

That's why from a right-wing discourse the position is incomprehensible: if you have enough but are "left", you surely don't want more for yourself but for those who have less than you, and in that case you're undermining your own interests or being disingenuous.

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat May 17th, 2008 at 06:32:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Good point, Mig, but it takes more than that--
A "dialog" has to result in a plan, a course of action, or it's just intellectualizing as an escape from the responsibility to act, as the diarist points out.
To act is to risk.
To risk, from a comfortable place within the bosom of the establishment is, as you point out--irrational, from a coldly logical, righist point of view.
So--why?
Something in your experience, your heart that tells you,
"--there, but for the whims of an incoherent fate go I."
Tear gas and black boots will also help.

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.
by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Sat May 17th, 2008 at 09:44:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The diarist is to a certain extent concern-trolling from a conservative point of view - it helps his political faction if we decide that those of us without the battle scars cannot be part of the left. How does it help you to reach the same conclusion?

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat May 17th, 2008 at 11:53:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Wow, now I'm concern trolling. That afraid of a real discussion, that my diary is trolling.

  • I have written the word provocation in the title,
  • I have rated Jeromes rebuttal, while I have not rated any comments which were directly supporting any of my points

I assume that it is as impossible to convince anybody here from my general points of view as it is to convince me of some ideas. I just wanted to help to reflect a bit and to encourage new ideas. But that is now an action of bad faith?
The nasty discussions were about things I have not written about in the diary, but came in very strange ways up in the comments, where it was not anymore about the general idea of ET and new ideas, but about specific issues of my personal political opinion or even things the parties I support have done, which are not part of my political views. I would have thought that most people here would have the intellectual capacity to seperate between that.

Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers
by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Sat May 17th, 2008 at 12:43:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"If you're middle class you cannot be left", coming from a conservative, is "concern trolling" (not the same thing as being an internet troll, BTW) since being a conservative you're not so much concerned about what is good for the left, are you?, and that argument is divisive of the left to the benefit of conservatives.

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat May 17th, 2008 at 12:54:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"If you're middle class you cannot be left",
show me, where I said that!
I said, the interest of the middle class and the lower class are not that aligned as I have the impression some believe that they are.

You said some comments above:
"Yes, because a left-wing discourse is about solidarity not about I want more for me and those like me."
I have never doubted that. I even have assumed that everybody is really concerned about real solidarity. I only pointed out the risk, that unintentionally some may overlook a part of the society, which really needs help.
I get currently 1050 Euro per month. If you someone from middle class couldn't be left, I couldn't be conservative, could I?

Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers

by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Sat May 17th, 2008 at 01:26:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Let me give you a few examples of UK policies that have benefitted me in the past three years because they are designed to benefit the middle class in order to compete for their votes with the Tory party, but which I consider are quite regressive and therefore wrong despite the fact that they benefit me. Make of that what you want, but to my mind I have a fairly comfortable economic position even if I'm not wealthy (and I have even been unemployed for 7 months and now make shit money) and I don't need the government's help at the expense of the working class or those of lower income. This is what being middle class and left is about.

The first example is tax-free savings. The UK allows £7,000 per year (of which up to £3,000 can be cash and the rest financial assets such as stocks or bonds or units in trust funds) to be saved in so-called ISA accounts which earn interest (or capital gains) tax-free. This only benefits people who actually have £7,000 a year to save, which requires a very substantial household income. The working poor (and not so poor: even the "key workers" such as London's police, teachers and medical workers) don't benefit from this.

The second example is the famous "10p tax". Brown raised the minimum taxable income bi a bit, but then he abolished the 10% marginal tax band and replaced it and the 22% tax band with a 20% tax band. This helps the very bottom of the income distribution a bit, by saving them maybe £200 out of their first £2,000 of taxable income, but then it hits the £10k to £20k with twice as much tax (20% instead of 10%) while reducing the marginal rate by 2% above that, until about £40k where the highest marginal rate of 40% kicks in. When this came out 18 months ago I was livid because this lowers the tax for the high earners at the expense of the low earners with a £200 sweetener for the very bottom (whose income is very substantially supplemented by tax credits and other benefits anyway). It's highway robbery for the benefit of the middle class and it's wrong from a left perspective.

The third example is that the government is going out of its way to help people "get on the property ladder" even as the bottom is dropping out of the housing market. They are going to spend £100M propping up the housing market by allowing all first-time buyers (and not only key workers) to buy property by sharing the purchase with a local authority or the government. This panders to middle-class narratives of home ownership but it encourages people who can't really afford it to get into mortgages, props up the mortgage sector and the real estate sector, and attempts to prop up housing prices so the middle class doesn't lose its home equity. This is wholly unnecessary, possibly counterproducing, won't stem a recession, and uses government money to prop up asset values instead  of running a keynesian employment stimulus while at the same time the government refuses to raise public sector wages to match inflation. Again, it may benefit me if I decided to buy a home since I would be a first time buyer, but it's just wrong from a left perspective.

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat May 17th, 2008 at 06:28:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
and what do you want to say me with this, except that you seem to agree with me again?
I try to make a valuable contribution. You insult me. And when I complain, you show me, that at least one step of the argument I brought up is valid.

Actually I don't care what kind of economic policy is done in the UK or in France or in the US. As I already said, I tried to make a valuable contribution, because there are so many valuable contributions on this blog by other people, which I enjoy to read and I tried to do something as well. Independent of political direction I enjoy the existence of something like a European community, to feel that there is something personal about Europe and not only abstract institutions. From my job or my hobbies or things like that, there isn't too much I can contribute. So I have written this peace in the hope that I can help to sharpen the minds of ETers.
And you take my contribution just as something intended to hurt. Where do you take that from? Wouldn't I have more effective ways, if I would have a political agenda to divide people on this blog? I really think your comments are beyond any reasonable proportion. Shall I guess what is your intention of that?

Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers

by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Sat May 17th, 2008 at 06:59:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I still fail to understand what all this provocative "salon socialism" charge is all about.

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat May 17th, 2008 at 07:03:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
So let me tell you, that from what I have read in the last 2-3 months here I would not have come to the conclusion that most ETers would be willing to drop these middle class incencitives you have listed above. Not even that this matters much to the typical ETer, otherwise I wouldn't have written this piece.
Actually in general focusing help only on the weakest is something I associate more with conservatives than with the left. So I really had the impression, that the poor were a bit forgotten. I can't view in heads. I have no integrated view of anybodies political ideas in general when I wrote that. Therefore I don't see any point of insulting me for having written what I have written, even if you can answer the question I brought up, that this is unambigously not the case.

Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers
by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Sat May 17th, 2008 at 07:28:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Actually in general focusing help only on the weakest is something I associate more with conservatives than with the left.

If you allow me some edge, I think that usually has a bread-and-circus nature - not sufficient to lift them out of poverty, but enough to win their support and/or toleration.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sun May 18th, 2008 at 09:54:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Conservatives do charity, Socialists do social change.

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun May 18th, 2008 at 09:59:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Indeed, but to nitpick, I would differentiate between Tory (and Old Whig) charity on one hand and Bismarckian or later continental European and East Asian conservative redistribution on the other hand.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sun May 18th, 2008 at 11:02:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In my experience, the conservative focus on the severely destitute to the exclusion of everyone else - including the poor - serves three main tactical purposes:

  • It allows the conservative parties to deny that they will allow people to starve in the streets.

  • It replaces the clear-cut, universal right to, say, unemployment subsidies with a deliberately Kafkan bureaucracy that very effectively prevents needing people from getting aid by requiring them to jump through so many hoops that they give up and stop trying (and it puts the applicants at the mercy of bureaucrats that can then be squeezed through budget cuts to deny aid even to those who should otherwise be found needy).

  • It reduces the solidarity of the middle class. The middle class is usually more willing to pony up the money for unemployment insurance and health care for the poor if they benefit from it as well. On the same note, it allows the upper class to build parallel private "alternatives" to public services such as health care. The upper class is then completely free to rape the public system, because they will be unaffected by the decline in quality of services.

It is possible that this focus is underwritten by ideological conviction, but it is so consistent, so pervasive and so tactically convenient that I find it just a little bit hard to believe that more prosaic considerations are not a substantial part of the justification.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sun May 18th, 2008 at 05:14:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
but there are actually people who really believe some of these funny things in a book called bible, who support parties with the name 'Christian' in it.

Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers
by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Sun May 18th, 2008 at 05:38:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You mean the bits about charity?

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun May 18th, 2008 at 05:42:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Among others, yes. I know what you think about charity, but to argue that Christians don't care if others starve is definitively not true.

Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers
by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Sun May 18th, 2008 at 05:58:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You just might be surprised.

I have been informed by several members in good standing of fundagelical American churches that "the poor will always be with us" (chapter this-or-that, verse something-or-another), so nothing we can do can prevent the poor from starving - therefore, we might as well not bother. Or words to that effect anyway - it's been a while since I tired of pointing and laughing at fundagelicals.

I have no reason to doubt the sincerity of their Christian piety. Their sanity, yes. But not their piety.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sun May 18th, 2008 at 06:20:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm well aware of the existence of hypocrats. I'm well aware, that some groups follow the idea, 'the poor are poor because they deserve it'.
But what you did was taking this as a rather general view. And you can't be proven wrong, because if somebody expresses concern then you claim he is not honest.

Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers
by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Sun May 18th, 2008 at 06:42:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Didn't mean to imply that no conservatives are honest about their concern for the poor. I'm sure that many of them are (even if they often have an ideological objection to doing anything worthwhile for the poor). I just argue that the theological justifications are usually rationalisations.

No party or society adheres to biblical ethics through and through. They always pick and choose the bits they like based on other criteria (cultural, ethical, political, tactical). Nothing wrong with that, of course, but please don't pretend that you're doing something else, or I shall have to drag out Leveticus, Judges and Revelations and quote you where it says that wearing mixed polyester-cotton clothes is a capital offence. Chapter and verse.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon May 19th, 2008 at 03:55:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This 'chapter and verse' religiosity is pretty American. Most Christians in Europe (but of course not all) know that historic context, background of the author, and the general spirit have to be taken into account.
The old testament is really beside a book to keep the history of the Isrealites a rulebook. But the new testament is about breaking the rules. It is about following the spirit of Jesus. And sure there is a lot of possible interpretation, but when asking the question 'What would Jesus (or a hypothetical person which can be characterised by the NT) have done in this situation', then I really can't see how anybody would answer, letting the poor starve.

Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers
by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Mon May 19th, 2008 at 09:27:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, we all know that Catholics don't read the bible anyway...

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon May 19th, 2008 at 01:00:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"Chapter and verse" is a figure of speech. The point is that Christian theology is sufficiently diverse to permit you to justify any policy by appeal to some passage in the Bible, some famous theologian and/or your gut feeling of what the person you think Jesus might have been would have done in some situation. It is preposterous (and not a little presumptuous) to claim that this or that policy is "more Christian" than some other policy.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed May 21st, 2008 at 04:27:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
For instance, we all know the Early Church was a protection racket:

BibleGateway.com: Acts 5:1-11

Acts 5

Ananias and Sapphira

1Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. 2With his wife's full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles' feet.

 3Then Peter said, "Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? 4Didn't it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn't the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied to men but to God."

 5When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened. 6Then the young men came forward, wrapped up his body, and carried him out and buried him.

 7About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. 8Peter asked her, "Tell me, is this the price you and Ananias got for the land?"
      "Yes," she said, "that is the price."

 9Peter said to her, "How could you agree to test the Spirit of the Lord? Look! The feet of the men who buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out also."

 10At that moment she fell down at his feet and died. Then the young men came in and, finding her dead, carried her out and buried her beside her husband. 11Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events.



When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri May 23rd, 2008 at 08:58:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Hunger short of starvation doesn't seem to be a problem for Christian doctrine, though, and when it gets to starving people there's always the likes of Mother Theresa to ease their passing.

Relieving suffering is all well and good, but addressing the social injustice that causes suffering is more important in the long term. Look what Ratzinger did to the Liberation Theology movement when he was Wojtila's Chief Inquisitor.

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon May 19th, 2008 at 07:06:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What did Ratzinger do to the Liberation Theology movement when he was Wojtila's Chief Inquisitor?

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se
by A swedish kind of death on Mon May 19th, 2008 at 08:50:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Threaten them with excommunication, pretty much.

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon May 19th, 2008 at 08:53:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That is among the things that worry us: shifting interpretations of  religious texts is  no basis for policy.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Sun May 18th, 2008 at 05:44:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What texts should be recommended as the basis for policy?  The latest texts from universities on the subject?  That sounds good when it comes to building materials, say, though for me to see the buildings I prefer being built, there would have to be an a priori decision that "lightest, most resilient, least polluting in the manufacture", those kinds of things balanced out, would be principal aims, as opposed to, say, "cheapest, quickest to build, easiest to build, easiest to replicate" or any other list of adjectives--

the "a priori" and its like are (I think) what define the limits of policy (manifestos)--a friend of mine suggested that we need a new rule book, that everyone in the world can subscribe to.  The Koran is a rule book, the Torah is a rule book, Paul's letters in the New Testament are, when put together, a rule book--

So why not a new rule book?  I'd have a non-hoarding rule in there--maybe a multiple of the minimum wage as the maximum an individual is allowed to own--including properties, etc--so when one reaches the limit one can by all means acquire more things, but at the same time other things must be given away, and they'll be given freely because profits would push the amount over the maximum again...

Only a pithier version.

What I'm thinking is: you're right, I don't want policy makers to be using The New Testament to make rules--

Eye of a needle - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

...I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. Matthew 19:24

has managed lo these many years to be comfortably spoken to rich people without them being hounded from the church or if they have been hounded, there have been other churches happy to accomodate them--shifting interpretations!  More like: I have my idea of what it means, and I'm right!

So: as a non-rhetorical question, given that religious texts are not valid as the basis of policy due to their inevitable internal contradictions, inconsistencies, and historical and other confusions or limitations, on what basis should one make policy?  I mean, what texts should be used, or is the written word in itself dubious because all texts are open to various interpretations, the keener the mind the more ingenious (but that's what lawyers do with rules--)--so I think you're right and I wonder--if one can create, say, twelve rules that all humans could find acceptable--without that meaning that--or would it mean that six billion interpretations would flow and shift--so yes, but if I were a believer in one of the world's rule books I would ask: what are your rules--that limit the a priori concepts from which policies will flow?  I suppose because a person whose actions are limited and determined by a specific set of texts will have a different approach to a person whose actions are--changing based on ever-changing information from an endless supply of texts...ach!  And all the positions in between!

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Sun May 18th, 2008 at 06:15:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Right. Of course. Silly me. Perish the thought that the Christian political parties retrofit their view of what the Bible says to accommodate their pre-conceived political notions. And far be it from me to suggest, however indirectly, that there might be more mundane, tactical and - dare I say - worldly concerns underpinning those pre-conceived policies that of course in no way inform their devout reading of the Bible.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sun May 18th, 2008 at 06:05:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
By the way, I don't agree with you in that you seem to interpret ET's defence of the middle class as advocacy for middle class material interests at the expense of the working class.

One of the ideas that you can see expressed here on ET, especially by Jerome but also by others is that the existence of a strong middle class appears to have been a prerequisite for prosperity and democracy. Therefore the current environment in which the middle class is being destroyed doesn't bode well for the future.

It is an unfortunate paradox of the left that by lifting people into the middle class it loses their political allegiance because then people shift to wanting to lift themselves to the wealthy class. And it is a tragedy that the social democratic parties have acquired "middle class" cadres and morphed into economic-liberal parties alienating their base. The result is, as in the 30's, that a lot of the working class is turning towards fascist options.

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat May 17th, 2008 at 07:20:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I have not said in expense the working class (anyhow I would have said of the poor, that includes non-working people as well).
I have said in ignorance of the poor.

And the idea "that the existence of a strong middle class appears to have been a prerequisite for prosperity and democracy" is not a defense against my charge! That is part of what I've written. You can have a strong middle class and ignore the lowest 10-15% at the very same moment. Trickle down doesn't work greatly from the rich to the middle class, and it doesn't work greatly from the middle class to the real loosers of the society.

Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers

by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Sat May 17th, 2008 at 07:35:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That is part of what I've written. You can have a strong middle class and ignore the lowest 10-15% at the very same moment.
And I just explained to you that we vociferously protested when Gordon Brown did exactly that: pander to the middle class and ignore those below it. We have also protested the Hartz-IV laws, and the policies of the French right-wing government regarding the Banlieues, but also we have had criticism of the way the 35h law was introduced by the Socialists in a way that benefitted the "liberal professions" at the expense of the working class, etc, etc... Do I have to go dig up old diaries for you to read?

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat May 17th, 2008 at 07:42:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
No, you have not to dig up the old diaries. I do believe you, as I have know written at least 3 times in this comment section.
It seems I was simply coming at the wrong time to ET to see that. The question is, why do you insult me first, before you let me know this? You have misquoted me to let me look more agressive than what I have really written, you accuse me of bad faith, of trying to divide this community. Why?
Jerome seems to have understood immediately, and - as I said before, in an comment responding to one of yours, to which you again answered -  this was enough for me. I have uprated him. End of story. It seems nobody else has understood my diary in the same way as you understood it.

Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers
by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Sat May 17th, 2008 at 07:58:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I guess Jerome has better people skills than I do.

Sorry if I offended you.

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat May 17th, 2008 at 08:15:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It's interesting to be having this provocative discussion and most of the backbiting is our own.

I don't see how the people of ET come to be 'salon socialists' by arguing on behalf of continental European economies, however. By arguing that 'x' is better than 'y' you are not saying that everything is fine with 'x'. The fact that there is a growing permanently poor 'underclass' in Europe has not gone unnoticed.

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Sat May 17th, 2008 at 01:43:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I had the impression that it was a bit too much jubilation on the continental EU economies and that the poor underclass got too few notice.
I don't read all comments and I haven't read all diaries ever written here.
I have as well noticed that it would be rediculous e.g. to accuse dodo or redstar of salon socialism, but it was a general impression.

As I had this (as you say false) impression, I have made a diary. I perfectly appriciate comments, as "I've thought 30 seconds if there is something true on this diary and it isn't".

Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers

by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Sat May 17th, 2008 at 01:57:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm not sure I'd call it jubilation, but rather some sort of schadenfreude to see all the discourse about how terrible the eurozone is doing being contradicted to a good extent by facts on the ground, which are nowhere nearly as bad.

and yes, of course, it does not mean that the eurozone does not have problems, nor that some policies are going in the wrong direction (we do have a number of rightwing governments in place), but it does help fight the neoliberal discourse, which is our goal.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sat May 17th, 2008 at 02:24:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
My attempt to state what Jérôme wrote in a stronger way:

Most of us observed that there was/is a constant denigration of continental EU economies from the business press, especially Anglo-Saxon. The aim of this propaganda is precisely to get our governments to apply more of the same 'medicine' that produced the worsening conditions for the underclass. It's two aspects of the same issue.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sun May 18th, 2008 at 07:14:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If the conditions and experiences of life never grow broader than that, it's hard to see how. After all, the "left" exists because of, in part, a desire to alter the scheme of things. If your "scheme" is just peachy--then it is only empathy that will motivate you to take risks for others from a position of comfort.

In my case, there was a structure of interest as a result of my father's background as a historian, and his teaching. The dialog and actions I became involved in were a result of the Viet Nam war. It was, I thought, a real cause, a non-hypocritical one. I was -- young.
As you may remember from other diaries, the tear gas-goon squad incident was real, and it was me in that alley.
That did it.
Not suggesting that that's the only way.
I do believe, however, that without empathy- the ability to sense and sympathize with another's joy or pain- any "left dialog" is hypocrisy.

If it's all just mechanistic word-play, symbol-chess, it's empty.


Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.

by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Sat May 17th, 2008 at 09:30:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Empathy doesn't come from tear gas.

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat May 17th, 2008 at 11:54:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
(Oh god this discussion again.)

Emotional entanglement (empathy) can lead to just as vacuous a response, "You're starving?  Let's have a Group Hug"  as arid intellectualism, "You're starving?  That means you're in the lowest economic status of your age cohort."  

Both, carried to extremes, are mechanisms of Avoidance.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Sat May 17th, 2008 at 01:06:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Take a leave of absence,
dump the computer, and spend a year in --Puerto Plata, the Dominican Republic, or Jamaica, Port Antonio--or better, both.

In the D.R., you will see the most incredibly beautiful women in the world, I believe--and some of the places (not mainstream towns any more)with the most smiles per capita--while living on an annual income that would probably not pay your electric bill.

In Port Antonio, some of the most beautiful scenery,(not women) and some of the angriest people in the world--with good reason.

Understand the smiles, understand the anger, and you HAVE a left dialog,--and, likely, friends for life.

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.

by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Sat May 17th, 2008 at 10:02:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
while living on an annual income that would probably not pay your electric bill.
I meant to say, "from people who are living on---

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.
by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Sat May 17th, 2008 at 10:27:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
beyond the fact that I'm happily married and that I'm generally more at ease with books than with people, of what use would that be, politically (which was the point of my initial question)?

You do seem to say that I bring nothing to the table, as things stand.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sat May 17th, 2008 at 11:12:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Egad.
On the contrary. You are, as we all know, the spark plug on which this ET motor runs.
You are also the person here whom I most admire- whose knowledge I would most like to have.
I was sharing with you the experiences from my life that most altered my world view, Jerome. I made the assumption that they might be similarly valuable to you. Or suggest your own answer.

And I too am much more at ease with books. Perhaps that's why it was so important to me to go beyond them.

And being happily married does not erase the ability to appreciate loveliness--n'est pas?

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.

by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Sat May 17th, 2008 at 11:27:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
have you seen the documentary 'life and debt', about Jamaica and the IMF?
Riveting...

Life and Debt

World Bank. IMF. NAFTA. Free trade. It's difficult even for some of those sympathetic to the anti-globalization movement to understand exactly what the problem is. Stephanie Black's film Life and Debt educates by focusing on one country (Jamaica), interviewing ordinary people as well as major players, and by arguing a frankly polemical viewpoint. The last aspect may seem to go against the grain of traditional ideas about documentary, but in political terms, "objective" reporting by the media has actually come to mean an effective silencing of opposition to establishment versions of truth. Life and Debt is effective because it has an opinion, and follows it up with evidence.

Life and Debt

The World Bank and the IMF were created by the Allies, most of them colonial powers, at the end of World War II, in order to avoid the destabilizing economic conditions that occurred after World War I. Their policies reflect their interests, not the interests of colonized peoples, who were not even independent at the time. With the end of the colonial era in the ensuing decades, the newly free nations found that they were lacking the necessary infrastructure (education, health, technology, banking, administrative, etc.) to build or maintain a viable society. Jamaica, like many other countries, turned to international lending organizations for help. However, the loans came with conditions. Jamaica had to eliminate tariffs and other limitations on imports. It could only spend certain percentages on education and social welfare - percentages determined by the IMF or World Bank. Local currency needed to be devalued relative to the dollar. And the Jamaican government could not loan to its own people (farmers, industry, etc.) except at a very high rate of interest dictated by the lenders. Stanley Fischer claims that these policies were designed to encourage the healthy development of Jamaica's economy. But what has been the actual result? Black shows us, not by numbers and graphs, but through the plain talk of actual Jamaican farmers and workers.

The devaluation of currency, and the elimination of limits on imports, meant that the price of local produce went up while imports from richer countries sold more cheaply. Thus Idaho potatoes drove out Jamaican potatoes, and big American companies were able to come in and buy out local ones. Powdered milk from the U.S. sold more cheaply than regular milk from Jamaican dairies. The local dairy industry, up until then one of the country's strongest, collapsed. (The film shows dairy farmers having to pour thousands of gallons of milk away while their businesses go belly-up.) The banana industry continued to thrive, because of an agreement with their former colonizer, the UK, allowing a guaranteed market. But the United States protested to the World Trade Organization about this "unfair" labor practice. Chiquita and Dole already controlled over 90% of the world market, but that was apparently not enough for them. Now the banana farms are going into decline, unable to compete with the big foreign companies.

The trouble is that the rich countries can always beat the poorer ones on the so-called "level playing field," because their greater resources allow cheaper means of production and access to cheaper labor.

Life and Debt

Meanwhile, as the economic base eroded, the government was unable to keep up with repaying the debt. Close to 60% of the state's outlays go just to payment of interest on the debt. The amount has ballooned from millions to billions. As the state is less and less able to meet the social service needs of its people, the quality of life continues to decrease. Poverty, violence and disease skyrocket.

One compelling section of the film covers the creation of "free trade zones" in Jamaica. Corporations negotiated the use of land that would be free from taxes or any state regulation, to be used for factories manufacturing clothing and other goods that would go straight to the boat for export. Black takes us inside the factories, and what we see are sweatshops where people labor at top speed for ten hours a day, receiving an average of $60 a month. No unions are allowed. The film interviews some of the women who work in these factories - they're tired, angry, and eloquent. Later, we see a mini-riot, as workers tear down a fence trying to stop the company from bringing in Asian workers who are paid in American dollars instead of Jamaican like the locals. If there is any trouble like this, the company can relocate somewhere else, like Ecuador or Mexico, which is exactly what happened in this case.

Life and Debt is intended to upset you. It did me. But it doesn't take the simplistic position that the bankers and corporations who have imposed this economic order on the Third World are villains who secretly plot to oppress the downtrodden. As Michael Manley points out, the policies make sense in terms of the economic self-interest of the people who made them. Corporations need to maximize profits and expand their control, because their shareholders demand it. Why wouldn't they? And the executives of the international lending organizations are probably sincere in their belief that these policies serve to benefit poor countries in the long term, notwithstanding Stanley Fischer's annoying smirk.

The trouble is, they don't. They only work for the richer countries. Poor countries like Jamaica end up losing their self-determination. Their governments, their economic policies, are determined by the conditions set down by the IMF and World Bank. The only industries that now thrive in Jamaica are tourism, coffin-making, and the training of guard dogs.

What we are seeing here, what is so clearly depicted in Life and Debt, is de facto slavery. When people have no control over their lives, when their country is at the mercy of foreign interests and foreign capital, when their government is occupied in controlling them rather than serving them, and when people are unable to support themselves adequately with their own labor, suffering from hunger, exploitation in sweat shops, and destruction of their traditional way of life, there really is no more pleasant thing to call this than slavery. And that's what the anti-globalization movement is ultimately about. It's the modern version of abolitionism. The modern slave-master is an economic system which precludes freedom, self-determination, and economic health to the majority of the world's people. The possible solutions, which include debt forgiveness and giving a oice to the less powerful nations in the determination of policy, are complex. They are being ignored.

Life and Debt, by bringing these realities home to us (and by "us" I mean viewers in First World countries), showing the results of this system on real people who live right next door, helps provide a needed wake-up call.


©2002 Chris Dashiell
Photographs courtesy of Jeremy Francis
Life and Debt official site

Some ways to take action:
http://www.50years.org
http://www.citizen.org/trade/
http://www.corpwatch.org/




'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty
by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sat May 17th, 2008 at 11:52:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Can someone who has lived in privilege, or at least in decent comfort, all of his/her life (materially, socially, spiritually), not known privation, never been part of the downtrodden, legitimately have a left-wing discourse?

yes, why not?

it's simply the intelligent discourse to have, whether you are in the crowd howling outside the castle moat, or quaking with your belly full within...

what's the best way to do so?

isn't that what ET is for?

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sat May 17th, 2008 at 12:43:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You're right- it IS what ET is for.
Can there be more?

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.
by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Sat May 17th, 2008 at 03:23:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
 the more the better

:=)

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sat May 17th, 2008 at 07:46:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Let me turn this around: there are socially conscious privileged persons, and they can legitimately have a left-wing discourse - and actions. But, for a broad movement and/or administration to achieve something, I think the involvement of class-conscious members of the underclass is necessary. Even well-intentioned technocrats can lose sight of issues, and some may turn not-so-well-intentioned whatever the movement's avowed goals.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sun May 18th, 2008 at 07:06:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I missed that picture.

I don't know about my largely wealthy status in comparison, but I am beginning to realise that only largely wealthy dilettantes can represent the poorest of the poor properly. Because they don't have time to be concerned with that - they're already on the knife's edge, they're surviving. And without proper education, I don't see how one could understand and change the system we have without shafting over the poor again. So it's technocrat socialists who, in my perspective, hold a key.

Just thinking that the tag "technocrat socialist" may fit J quite well.

by Nomad on Sun May 18th, 2008 at 09:48:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Because they don't have time to be concerned with that - they're already on the knife's edge, they're surviving.

Except when they stage a revolution, or at least a bread revolt :-)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sun May 18th, 2008 at 09:51:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Which is a rather touchy situation as well: I am not sure that armed revolution accomplishes much of anything other than replacing the current band of gangsters with another band of gangsters. The kind of people who can win an armed revolution don't generally strike me as the kind of people you'd want to have anywhere near control of your government.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sun May 18th, 2008 at 04:50:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
European Tribune - Salon socialism on ET. A provocation

[2]Which is not primarily left, but more a need of reality. Indeed the part of the green parties which are primarily interested in the environment and sustainablility are typically the first offering alliances to the conservatives. Sustainability and environment protection are elitist projects for those who don't have to care for the now

Meh. The German greens have a coalition in one German state and suddenly the socialists start talking about supposed elitism and friendliness to the right. Apparently only the SPD is allowed to govern with the CDU.

Sustainability is a prerequisite for any kind of politics. It may be harder to care for it on an empty stomach, but looking for transient solutions to empty stomachs is not responsible politics. The left still has to prove itself on sustainability. In Germany it's still mired in traditional industrialism.

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Sat May 17th, 2008 at 10:29:01 AM EST
I strongly deny being a salon socialist.

I am a bedroom socialist.

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet

by Melanchthon on Sat May 17th, 2008 at 11:44:15 PM EST
I only read a small part of the comments so far, so sorry if I touch covered ground, but wanted to put down some thoughts. I won't deal much with your perception of an under-coverage of social themes - others did so, and Migeru mentioned past issues with broad discussion like the French 'riots' -, more the underlying issues. First, a more general argument.

I think one reason you could observe discussion focused on the middle-class is that many readers spent time on US blogs (or in the US itself) and are influenced by the discourse there - and the US left-of-centre party, the Democrats, (1)aren't Socialists, (2) focus on the middle class ever since FDR.

However, even in Europe, the direction of socialism for step-by-step reforms through the parliamentary route, e.g. Social Democrats, historically favoured policies building up a wide middle-class. Myself, I think the self-defeating nature of this project could have been seen on the onset: the have-some will have a tendency to defend what they have, and hope they will rise further, thus a significant part will end up supporting the have-mores against the have-nones. Worse, when the party leaders themselves rise up the social ladder, there will be a tendency to view issues and weigh their importance from their current (or hoped-for even higher) position. (And to those who'd protest: a tendency of course doesn't mean that everyone is incapable of social solidarity, only that that realising [apparent] class interests is the easy route.) Thus to a large extent I view the current doldrums of the European centre-left and the plague of Third Wayism as a logical consequence of core Social Democrat strategy from at least 60, but perhaps 120 years ago.

Yet, discussing the present-day middle-class is worthwile even from a Socialist perspective. I will state an idea others indicated in a stronger way: with the collapse of the Eastern Block, the wide middle-class has "done its duty" for the upper-class, maintaining it is no longer felt as necessary: thus the wealth capture from above, thus the stagnating or reduced middle-class incomes, thus the erosion of the middle class and the growth of the new underclass: the service class.

Now on to more specific points.

I disagree with you that today, market-liberalism in Europe is that far from the US. On one hand, the US is not entirely what Wall Street propagandists make it: say, lots of tax comparisons ignore that US citizens don't only pay federal, but state and local taxes too, or the fact that while Enron and the California Crisis make big news, a lot of utilities are held or controlled by local authorities. On the other hand, some marketisation ideas and practice go further here than in the US, I am thinking above all about electricity and transport. While some new EU members have gone way past the Anglo-Saxons in implementing flat tax. In labour, I note the situation in the construction and agrarian sectors - I'd say we are much worse than the US in the first (the US has some strong unions in that field), and similarly bad on the second.

I disagree with you (and your sources) on the assessment of recent social changes in Germany - as can be guessed from the title of a recent diary of mine: Trickle-Up Recovery - in Germany. Data shown therein indicate a growing underclass, a squeezed middle-class, and upward/downward mobility different from what Thomas Fricke says. I also note that some of the squeeze doesn't show up in income figures, i.e. the slashing of non-monetized benefits/provisions and the VAT raise.

Just today, there is an advance report out (won't link to the original source, but here is another) saying that the poor (as defined by income under the 60% of the median) grew to 13% in Germany, with another 13% held above with social benefits.

It is silly for parts of the German Left (in my impression more typically both wings of the centre-left) to point at Sweden uncritically as superior social model. Sweden as Social Democrat ole model is a has-been. Sweden had its own 'reforms' in the nineties. (And I note that is precisely the reason some Schröderite Social Democrats point to Sweden.)

I saw the ill-communicated exchange with Migeru, so I'll have to make clear this is not meant as an accusation or assumption of hidden agenda, but I do think that say your analysis of Greens is informed by the currently in-production ideological foundation for current CDU/CSU strategic positioning.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sun May 18th, 2008 at 06:58:07 AM EST
However, even in Europe, the direction of socialism for step-by-step reforms through the parliamentary route, e.g. Social Democrats, historically favoured policies building up a wide middle-class. Myself, I think the self-defeating nature of this project could have been seen on the onset: the have-some will have a tendency to defend what they have, and hope they will rise further, thus a significant part will end up supporting the have-mores against the have-nones. Worse, when the party leaders themselves rise up the social ladder, there will be a tendency to view issues and weigh their importance from their current (or hoped-for even higher) position. (And to those who'd protest: a tendency of course doesn't mean that everyone is incapable of social solidarity, only that that realising [apparent] class interests is the easy route.) Thus to a large extent I view the current doldrums of the European centre-left and the plague of Third Wayism as a logical consequence of core Social Democrat strategy from at least 60, but perhaps 120 years ago.

Yet, discussing the present-day middle-class is worthwile even from a Socialist perspective. I will state an idea others indicated in a stronger way: with the collapse of the Eastern Block, the wide middle-class has "done its duty" for the upper-class, maintaining it is no longer felt as necessary: thus the wealth capture from above, thus the stagnating or reduced middle-class incomes, thus the erosion of the middle class and the growth of the new underclass: the service class.

This is the elephant in the living room of left politics, isn't it? The European Social Democrat and Labour parties are morphing into social-liberal parties partly through generational replacement of the successful working-class leaders of 30 years ago with their middle-class scions.

I think it is appropriate for middle-class "liberal professionals" to be "left" but they probably shouldn't lead the left.

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun May 18th, 2008 at 07:05:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
morphing into social-liberal parties partly through generational replacement of the successful working-class leaders of 30 years ago with their middle-class scions.

Yes, that's one sub-trend. But two main players represent other sub-trends: Schröder is a self-made-man who rose from the lower classes himself, while Wolfgang Clement whom we scorned so much came from a non-political middle-class background (he joined the SPD, just looked it up, at 30). I.e., one lost sight of his effect and is proud of his personal upward mobility achievement, the other was a socially conscious privileged person who 'grew out of it'.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sun May 18th, 2008 at 08:59:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Looking at leaders of the swedish Social Democrats the picture is more complicated then a generational shift in leadership:

Hjalmar Branting
Leader for the Soc.Dems: 1907-1925
Prime minister: 1920, 1921-23, 1924-25
Class background: "High Bourgeoisie" ~ lower upper (father was a principal, mother was noble)
Notes: Same primary school as the king, spent his inheritance (a small fortune).

Per Albin Hansson
Leader for the Soc.Dems: 1925-1946
Prime minister: 1932-1936, 1936-1946
Class background: Working class (father was a brick layer, mother was a domestic aid)
Notes: Fabled for keeping his working class morals, according to one tale his wife returned govermental pencils after he died (he died while serving as prime minister).

Tage Erlander
Leader for the Soc.Dems: 1946-1969
Prime minister: 1946-1969
Class background: Middle (father was a teacher, mother probably homemaker)

Olof Palme
Leader for the Soc.Dems: 1969-1986
Prime minister: 1969-1976, 1982-1986
Class background: Upper (father was president of insurance company, mother noble)
Notes: Hated among much of the swedish upper class as a class traitor. Only swedish prime minister to have been murdered.

Ingvar Carlsson
Leader for the Soc.Dems: 1986-1996
Prime minister: 1986-1991, 1994-1996
Class background: Working class (single mother, textile worker)

Göran Persson
Leader for the Soc.Dems: 1996-2007
Prime minister: 1996-2006
Class background: Working class (father, construction worker)
Notes: Has made a much noted class journey and built his own mansion. Now well-paid consultant for private enterprise.

Mona Sahlin
Leader for the Soc.Dems: 2007-
Prime minister: Not yet
Class background: Middle class

Of course, this is looking only at the person at the top, a thorough study would include at least the executive council of the soc. dem. party, but this comment has taken enough time as it is.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Sun May 18th, 2008 at 03:15:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
this might be worth a diary of its own as it is - quite fascinating.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun May 18th, 2008 at 05:49:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I disagree with you that today, market-liberalism in Europe is that far from the US.
But the net income distribution is. Otherwise you are right, that our markets are as liberalised. I put the income distribution thing up, because in the US it seems to be more justified to assume that middle class and poor people interests are well aligned.

I disagree with you (and your sources) on the assessment of recent social changes in Germany
One difference between what you describe and what Fricke describes is, that he speaks of the middle class as people with a certain qualification (as Jake put it "tenured worker"). You speak of people with a certain income.

grew to 13% in Germany, with another 13% held above with social benefits.
The first is sad. The other, well isn't that exactly the purpose of social benefits? That is more a sign of a working system than a non-working system.

With the greens, I really think there is more to it. Of course they prefer the SPD, but they will usually prefer the CDU above the left (maybe except when the CDU incumbrant is named "Koch").
The political opinion center in Germany has definitively changed. Schröder's politics with regard to taxes (reducing the maximum income tax by 12%) and welfare is undoubtfully rightwing policy. And the greens were part of that, too.
It is more the social policy, where the greens always were against the CDU and there the CDU has moved significantly to the left, while some on the left has as well moderated their tone on some issues (Haven't heard an attack on the Ehegattensplitting in quite some time now).

Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers

by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Sun May 18th, 2008 at 08:46:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But the net income distribution is.

Relative to what? One can indeed observe that the Gini coefficient figures for European countries are below that of the US, and that their spread is relatively minor. But, on one hand, I addressed the Sweden example to imply that the rot in Europe is broad, thus it could be lower. On the other hand, the Gini coefficient is not static, it is increasing more or less across the board: we are moving towards US conditions, and already reached US conditions of a couple of years ago. For illustration, here is a diagram I left out from my Trickle-up Recovery diary for brevity:

he speaks of the middle class as people with a certain qualification (as Jake put it "tenured worker"). You speak of people with a certain income.

Correct. But Fricke mixes the two, when social mobility is discussed.

The other, well isn't that exactly the purpose of social benefits?

That was the minister's point indeed. The real issue is of course how that helps the warring arguments about how to change the system.

Of course they prefer the SPD, but they will usually prefer the CDU above the left

That's only the Realos maybe not even all of them, I think. As nanne said, there are only a few local Red-Green coalitions, those in cities (it's not just Koch who is incompatible) - while you could say much more about SPD-CDU coalitions under the same terms.

(Haven't heard an attack on the Ehegattensplitting in quite some time now).

Three weeks ago, the Greens met the bishops:

BÜNDNIS 90/DIE GRÜNEN Bundespartei - Gespräch von BÜNDNIS 90/DIE GRÜNEN mit der Deutschen Bischofskonferenz

Beim Thema Familienpolitik unterstrichen die Bischöfe den engen Zusammenhang von Ehe und Familie. Die auf Ehe gegründete Familie sei die beste Grundlage für ein gelingendes Leben in Partnerschaft und Solidarität über Generationen hinaus. Daher sei unbedingt am besonderen Schutz der Verfassung für Ehe und Familie festzuhalten. In diesem Punkt vertraten die Grünen die abweichende Auffassung, dass es für Familie auf Kinder und nicht auf Ehe ankomme. Ebenfalls traten die Grünen dafür ein, das Ehegattensplitting abzuschmelzen. Ausführlich wurde auch die von den Grünen geforderte Aufnahme von Kinderrechten in die Verfassung diskutiert.


*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sun May 18th, 2008 at 09:20:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Ok, it seems to me that at least SPON then has overplayed the possibility of black-green and Jamaika coalitions.

Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers
by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Sun May 18th, 2008 at 02:51:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
DoDo:

However, even in Europe, the direction of socialism for step-by-step reforms through the parliamentary route, e.g. Social Democrats, historically favoured policies building up a wide middle-class. Myself, I think the self-defeating nature of this project could have been seen on the onset: the have-some will have a tendency to defend what they have, and hope they will rise further, thus a significant part will end up supporting the have-mores against the have-nones. Worse, when the party leaders themselves rise up the social ladder, there will be a tendency to view issues and weigh their importance from their current (or hoped-for even higher) position. (And to those who'd protest: a tendency of course doesn't mean that everyone is incapable of social solidarity, only that that realising [apparent] class interests is the easy route.) Thus to a large extent I view the current doldrums of the European centre-left and the plague of Third Wayism as a logical consequence of core Social Democrat strategy from at least 60, but perhaps 120 years ago.


I would say apparent is the operative word there.

The purpose of social-democratic politics has to be to cast both its policial narrative and structure its proposed solutions in a way that fuses the interests of the middle income class with those of the poor. It's the only way in which it can actually hope to both command majorities and implement policies that help the poor.

Interests are not narrowly fixed. They are perceived.

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Sun May 18th, 2008 at 10:48:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
However, even in Europe, the direction of socialism for step-by-step reforms through the parliamentary route, e.g. Social Democrats, historically favoured policies building up a wide middle-class. Myself, I think the self-defeating nature of this project could have been seen on the onset

It was. But rather a lot of the people who saw it were presenting alternatives that involved lining people up against a wall and shooting them. Those alternatives were almost uniformly discarded for a variety of usually excellent reasons.

The late 19th century was not a nice period in European history. (Well, the 19th century wasn't a nice period in history overall, but the late part of it saw the formative years of the labour movement.)

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sun May 18th, 2008 at 03:48:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It was. But rather a lot of the people who saw it were presenting alternatives that involved lining people up against a wall and shooting them. Those alternatives were almost uniformly discarded for a variety of usually excellent reasons.

But then again there was also various movements that (as opposed to the social democrats or the communists) did not seek control over government but rather transfering the power into other structures. Syndicalists, anarchists and various forms other forms comes to mind. However, they did have a tendency to be lined up and shoot. Or hanged.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Sun May 18th, 2008 at 06:27:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, if I recall my history correctly, the Syndicalists were not so much hanged in Denmark as subsumed by the Social Democrats (or maybe it was the other way around).

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sun May 18th, 2008 at 06:35:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Your memory appear to be correct:

Syndikalisme - Wikipedia, den frie encyklopædi

Syndikalismen i Danmark er i dag ikke synligt eksisterende som selvstændig bevægelse i arbejderbevægelsen, der domineres af den socialdemokratiske ideologi. Dette skyldes bl.a., at de danske syndikalister ikke ønsker at splitte den traditionsrige danske fagbevægelse.

Men også i starten af det 20. århundrede som i andre europæiske lande oplevede den syndikalistiske bevægelse en stor fremgang i Danmark. Efter at Hovedaftalen (Septemberforliget) var blevet indgået mellem DsF (nu LO) og arbejdsgiverne i Dansk Arbejdsgiverforening (DA) i september 1899 efter lang tids strejke og lock-out, var utilfredsheden stor i dele af den danske fagbevægelse. Man mente, at DsF's forhandlere havde accepteret alt for mange af DA's krav. Nogle arbejdere var særligt utilfredse med fredspligten, konfliktløsningssystemet og arbejdsgivernes ledelsesret, der ville svække arbejdernes faglige kamp.

Derfor oprettedes i ca. 1910 Fag-Oppositionens Sammenslutning, hvis mest markante figur var Christian Christensen. Tilslutningen til Fag-Oppositionens Sammenslutning var relativt stor i det efterfølgende årti. Dette skyldtes bl.a. stor arbejdsløshed i visse fag og udbruddet af 1. Verdenskrig. Syndikalisterne engagerede sig ikke kun i den direkte faglige kamp, hvor deres indflydelse ikke var så stor, men også i den sociale og kulturelle kamp. Bl.a. kæmpede de mod kvindeundertrykkelse, for bedre boligforhold og mod militarismen, der gik som en bølge over Europa under 1. verdenskrig. Det var også syndikalisterne, der var den største faktor i mobiliseringen til den direkte aktion og demonstrationen "Stormen på Børsen" i 1918.

Fag-Oppositionens Sammenslutning gik dog i opløsning omkring 1921, da mange søgte over i det nyoprettede Danmarks Kommunistiske Parti i forbindelse med den russiske oktoberrevolution.

Presset på Fag-Oppositionens Sammenslutning havde i øvrigt også internt i fagbevægelsen altid været stort. Således blev det vedtaget af Socialdemokratiet på deres kongres i 1913, og senere støttet af DsF, at der skulle gøres alt for at bekæmpe den syndikalistiske bevægelses fremgang.

I was more thinking about the fates of alternative socialist movements in the 19th and first half of the 20th century in the countries with more violent conflicts.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Sun May 18th, 2008 at 06:56:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There wasn't a lot of lining people against walls and shooting them in Scandinavia, but if you look at the German, Russian and Spanish Revolutions (the latter referring to the situation in the Republican-controlled rural hinterland during the Spanish Civil War) there was a lot of shooting of (and by) anarchists.

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon May 19th, 2008 at 07:12:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
However, even in Europe, the direction of socialism for step-by-step reforms through the parliamentary route, e.g. Social Democrats, historically favoured policies building up a wide middle-class. Myself, I think the self-defeating nature of this project could have been seen on the onset: the have-some will have a tendency to defend what they have, and hope they will rise further, thus a significant part will end up supporting the have-mores against the have-nones. [...]Thus to a large extent I view the current doldrums of the European centre-left and the plague of Third Wayism as a logical consequence of core Social Democrat strategy from at least 60, but perhaps 120 years ago.

First, I think you're wrong on the dynamics of building up a wide middle class. It is precisely at the time that the have-somes felt most secure and upwardly mobile that they were most willing to support anti-poverty programs (i.e. the sixties through the mid seventies). The backlash came once they started feeling their prosperity threatened.  You also can't really expect for a large majority of society to vote to lower their own living standards substantially in favour of a minority.

In times of extreme economic crisis, i.e. the Great Depression, the declasse have-somes in Europe reacted by turning to the extremes - the anti-democratic and radical parties of the left, but especially the right. In America they turned towards the moderate left in the form of FDR. Neither is a particularly hopeful example for the radical left. On the other hand the example of the postwar boom does suggest that the incremental approach which starts off by reassuring and helping the broad middle can pay large dividends for the poor as well.

Which brings me to my final point - the historical attitude of the radical left towards fundamental democratic values has tended to range from ambivalent to very hostile which in turn hurts their popular appeal.  That stems  in large part from a conscious or unconscious understanding that the radical alternative is very difficult to achieve without the use of the gun and the torture chamber on behalf of a self appointed and unaccountable elite against the population.

by MarekNYC on Sun May 18th, 2008 at 04:27:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
but then again, we're not trying to defend the hard left, are we? Just the left...

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun May 18th, 2008 at 05:51:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, DoDo seemed to be objecting to an incremental approach which focuses primarily on the broad middle class with the very poor mainly being helped incidentally. What I was saying that the chances of achieving and implementing radical measures that discount the interests of the middle is almost certainly impossible through democratic means, but that on the other hand the incremental approach does eventually lead to programs specifically targeting the poor. Or to put it in shorter terms - the incremental approach is more positive than he gives it credit for, while the radical approaches are either futile or very ugly.

Of course I don't actually want the kind of end stage that DoDo does, so that may be unconsciously biasing my analysis. On the other hand I don't think I'm all that alone in my views among left wing voters, and given the difficulties even the moderate left has in winning majorities, it seems to me that insisting on 'radical left wing policies, now!', and thus rejecting the votes of us moderates will not be a successful electoral strategy.

by MarekNYC on Sun May 18th, 2008 at 09:54:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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